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Celebrating Nurses: Holly Deroba

Celebrating Nurses: Holly Deroba

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Age: 55

Specific job title: Oncology Nurse Navigator for UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Carlisle

Where did you go to college? I received my Associate’s degree from Harrisburg Area Community College. I attended Drexel University for several classes toward my MSN.

How many years as a nurse? 13 years as a Registered Nurse. Prior to obtaining my Associates degree, I was a nursing assistant at a residential treatment facility for adolescents and at a local acute care hospital.

Where do you live? I live in Boiling Springs.

What do you like best about what you do?The best thing about my job, I think, is that I can really understand what it feels like to go through chemotherapy and radiation; not just saying the words, but I can empathize with patients. I understand how it feels to receive a cancer diagnosis and I can assist the patients and their families with education and support during this devastating time. I was diagnosed with two different types of breast cancer, once at the age 45 and then again at the age of 50. I was a relatively new nurse when I was diagnosed with cancer for the first time and having the experience of becoming a “patient,” I gained more insight into my patients. Not only the words they were saying, but also understanding what they were not saying. The second time I was diagnosed with cancer, I switched my nursing focus from cardiac nurse and applied for a nurse navigator position at the same cancer center where I was treated.

What is the toughest challenge you face while dealing with COVID-19?In February 2020, I went to UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Wellness and Integrative Oncology Program to be trained as a Wellness Ambassador — we provide supportive care for patients undergoing cancer treatment by using aromatherapy, hand/feet massage, guided imagery, seated yoga and meditation/breathing techniques. Unfortunately, since COVID-19 we had placed the program on hold since there are precautions in place for the safety of patients/staff. The other difficult challenge is since we are observing distance with patients, sometimes a patient/family member just needs something physical, like a hug or to hold their hand. Since COVID, this is difficult to do, substituting elbow bumps and “air” hugs instead.

Something you would like the public to know about what you do?Being a nurse navigator encompasses a variety of different jobs/tasks, such as triaging sick calls, seeing these patients, teaching patients about their medications and management of side effects, helping to guide patients to resources and sometimes just listening to patients “vent” regarding their treatment/side effects/diagnosis, and assisting the physicians/advanced practitioners with calling patients with results.

Who are your role models or mentors?My biggest role model and mentor is my mother, who also is a nurse. She is a psychiatric nurse, but has been involved in most areas of nursing. My mom has always been my support and has given me much advice when it comes to having stressful situations. I have been incredibly lucky in my career having many nurses/providers providing education and guiding me to be the best nurse that I can be.

What goals do you have in your field of service?One of the most important goals I have with being an oncology nurse navigator is to be able to have the patient’s experience from diagnosis to end of treatment be prompt and flawless.

"I understand how it feels to receive a cancer diagnosis and I can assist the patients and their families with education and support during this devastating time."


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