Our Nurse of the Week is Kaitlyn Whitewater, an oncology nurse at Saint Francis Hospital in Tulsa, OK. However, Whitewater isn’t just an oncology nurse. She’s also a cancer survivor who connects with her patients and gives them hope in a way that many of her fellow nurses on the oncology unit can’t.
Whitewater was just beginning her first semester of college when she was diagnosed with a rare case of acute lymphoblastic leukemia and acute myeloid leukemia. She was sent to the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and within a week of diagnosis, was admitted to the intensive care unit comatose and with a failing liver. After Whitewater finally regained consciousness, her liver began to heal, and she was able to undergo extensive chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant.
While at the hospital in Texas, Whitewater continued her online studies at Tulsa Community College. She had already decided on a nursing career prior to her diagnosis but discovered during her treatment that she wanted to become an oncology nurse.
Whitewater returned to Tulsa but needed to be seen by her oncology team in Tulsa daily for blood work and labs. During one of her many visits, a conversation with the nurse manager led to her becoming a nurse technician on the oncology unit. She earned her certified nursing assistant credentials and started working as nurse tech while attending Tulsa Community College as a full-time student.
After earning her associate degree in nursing, Whitewater was accepted to the nursing program at the University of Tulsa. She pushed through the side effects of her chemo treatments and graduated with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing in May 2017. Now Whitewater works as a clinical nurse on the Saint Francis Hospital Oncology Unit alongside the nurses that helped her while she was a patient.
Whitewater isn’t the kind of person who shares her story with everyone; she only shares when she feels it will help a patient. But she can offer her patients and their families hope by sharing her experience and letting them know she understands some of what they might be going through and that they’re not going through it alone.
To learn more about Kaitlyn Whitewater and her journey from cancer patient to oncology nurse, visit here.