Allison de Villiers strives to provide the best care possible for her patients by constantly putting herself in their shoes.
It's an approach that also carries over into her other roles at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute.
"Allison is collaborative and driven to do the very best for our patients and our staff," says Shannon Thompson, director of ambulatory nursing at The Ohio State Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute. "You will often see Allison working in conjunction with the nurse manager or other clinical nurse specialist colleagues to draft and roll out new initiatives.
"She often develops case studies to allow for discussion with the staff. Allison knows that discussion and hands-on education with her team are often what makes things stick and ultimately leads to success."
The Ohio native's approach earned her The James Compassionate Care Award and Preceptor Excellence Award.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I have 19 years of oncology nursing experience. I received my bachelor's degree in nursing from the University of Toledo in 1999 and my master's degree in nursing in the clinical nurse specialist track from the University of Central Florida in 2010.
Where are you from originally and what led you to Ohio State?
I grew up in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. I worked in Cleveland for my first two years as a registered nurse and met a traveling nurse. It sounded like a fantastic deal; I would get to see the country and my housing would be paid for, so I tried it out. I hated the Ohio weather and was never coming back. But 12 years, many jobs, and a husband and one kid later, I was drawn back to the Midwest to work at OSUCCC – James, and I wanted to raise my family here. I found out that nothing compares to Midwest living.
What drew you to the field and the role you play at the medical center?
I originally started out pre-med in college and soon realized that I really wanted more patient contact, as I am a people person. I also did not want to spend all of my young years on school.
After I became an RN, I realized that I really would like to spend more one-on-one time with patients and families to help with teaching and understanding diagnosis and treatment. I also enjoyed helping the staff nurses navigate their resources as well as nursing education. This is when I decided that I wanted to be a clinical nurse specialist (CNS).
Where do you work and what type of patients do you work with?
I am a CNS in oncology. My focus is on the gastrointestinal oncology population.
How have you built relationships with patients and other providers?
When I first started, I did a lot of observing and listening. I tried to learn about the culture and behaviors of the institution. I soon learned that there are needs everywhere and would try to jump in and help. I learned that collaboration with all members of the health care team is the best way to accomplish things.
What's the most important aspect of your job?
Making sure the patients have the best care and support possible.
Which of the medical center's core values do you most identify with?
Empathy. I try to mentally put myself in the place of our patients or their families. If it were me or my family, this is what I would want, and this is how I would want to be cared for or treated. It makes me work my hardest to make things right for all.
I also feel this way about my co-workers. I strive to treat and interact with them in a way that if the tables were turned, this is how I would want to be treated.
What's the most challenging part of your job? What's the most rewarding part?
This is a very large institution, and sometimes it takes a while to make a change or get something done fast. I have learned to be very patient.
The most rewarding thing is that I feel completely honored to work here. The James is a well-respected place, and I am proud to say that I am part of it. I have never witnessed care like this anywhere else that I have worked. The staff take the time and are so compassionate and caring. They will go out of their way to make sure that the patients get the best care. I have also never worked anywhere that has so many resources.
What else should we know about you?
I am a wife and mother of two little girls, ages three and five. My husband is my rock and is always there for me. My girls keep me very busy. When I am not at work, I am home having a princess fashion show with them or cleaning up all of the wonderful messy experiments they make around my house. They definitely keep me on my toes.
Thank you, Allison, for improving people's lives!