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The nursing staff on the 9 Pavilion West oncology unit at the Hackensack University Medical Center (HUMC) in New Jersey knows that hair loss can be one of the most difficult side effects of cancer treatment for patients to come to terms with. Female patients in particular tend to express feelings of sadness and sometimes loss of identity.

9 Pavilion West nurse Audrey Waechter, BSN, RN, though, is in a position to give patients an old Hollywood-style headdress. Waechter sometimes covers her own hair with beautiful scarves at work. Over the last few months, Audrey noted she was getting more frequent compliments on the scarves as well as questions from patients asking her where she purchased them and how to artfully wrap them.

“Oncology allows me to develop lasting relationships with my patients.”

 Seeing how happy and confident the scarves made her patients, Audrey had an idea. She decided to write instructions on how to wrap the scarves to achieve different looks. Her colleagues Kathryn Frattarola, RN, Jessica Pollack, RN, Cecola Steele-Odondi, NA, and Jenna DiGiacinto, RN helped out to model the looks that were captured in photographs. The instructions and photos were used to create an easy-to-follow pamphlet for patients experiencing hair loss from chemotherapy.

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Additionally, Audrey generously purchased 20 new scarves to donate to patients to be given out with the pamphlet. With management in full support of this initiative – named Bare It or Wear It – Audrey will be training any team members on the unit who are interested in learning how to wrap scarves. Those team members will in turn be able to personally teach patients. Marking the journey of our oncology patients is important and hair loss is a significant part of it,” said Jenna.

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 9PW Nurse Manager Meg Orzechowski said, “Audrey is very passionate about being an oncology nurse and she often expresses that it was a true calling for her to move into this specialty. Her Bare It or Wear It initiative is just one example of how Audrey goes above and beyond for her patients to make them feel comforted during such a difficult time. I am excited to watch this initiative expand as patients have immediately expressed their gratitude and excitement for the scarves as they help them look a little more like themselves and a little less sick.”

She adds, There are no more beautiful souls in this world than those who bring beauty to others. Much gratitude and congratulations to Audrey for bringing this lovely initiative to life. To all the caregivers on 9PW, our heartfelt thanks, and appreciation.”

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“Oncology allows me to make a difference in the lives of people enduring cancer – no matter their race or color,” said Audrey. “It is rewarding to care for such a special population of patients where I am able to show my compassionate side. Being in Oncology also allows me to develop lasting relationships with my patients. I have created an avenue to help ease the emotional and physical frustrations experienced particularly by my female patients who are experiencing hair loss.”

This initiative helps to educate and provide different options of headwear for patients who have lost their hair due to cancer treatments. The oncology team says it has helped to boost their confidence and for them to feel beautiful once again.

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