COLORADO SPRINGS — September is childhood cancer awareness month, and as we support kids fighting pediatric cancer, we're also recognizing nurses who have a lasting impact on those kids and their families.
News5 spoke to Rachel Kovacs, a nurse care coordinator at the Children's Hospital in Colorado Springs, about the importance of her job and the difference it's making.
She's been a working with kids for about 21 years, and has been an oncology nurse for nearly 12 years. Her job is to work with child patients who have leukemia and their families, and kids who have bone marrow failures.
"When a child gets diagnosed with leukemia, I try to be there as early as I can. If I can, I try to be there with the physician during the initial diagnosis talk," said Kovacs.
She says while it can be a difficult job that has its up's and down's, she focuses on remaining positive as much as she can.
During their treatment she said, "I'm answering questions, educating, making sure they have all the medications they need, all the appointments they need, working with their schools and day cares and basically anything we can to make life smoother and easier for the family. It is over years and months that we get to spend with them, and know them and know their families and we become really close."
She works with sick patients and their family throughout their pediatric cancer journey, and during that time, she's building long-term relationships. But she said it takes a strong mindset to show up to work every day and remain positive, and it's not always easy.
"Nobody likes to see kids sick, nobody likes to see kids suffer, and unfortunately that's a part of kids having cancer," said Kovacs.
Through it all she says it's important to be an advocate for positive mental health and take care of herself so she can take care of others.
"It's really great to be a pediatric oncology nurse. I can't imagine doing anything else. I love doing this work, it's where I'm supposed to be," said Kovacs. "But to keep showing up and being who you want to be and interacting with patients and families the way you want to, you really have to be intention about taking care of yourself and finding meaning in your work."
Although oncology nurses like Kovacs see kids on their worst days, she said it's the best days that keep her going.
"When a child finished treatment, we have a big bell inside that they get to ring, and we all come out and cheer them on and those are the best days of coming to work," said Kovacs.
The hard days spent inside of the hospital eventually turn into celebrating the big moments outside of the hospital, like birthdays, their first day of school, and even high school graduation.
Kovacs said at the end of every day she reflects and remembers small moments like when she made a patient smile or made a human connection with the family. She said it's something she encourages other staff members to do too.