Most of us have never experienced the fear of not having enough to eat. Unfortunately, some of the wonderful people and families we meet and serve every day at Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) are not as lucky.
One day in 2020, a patient receiving treatment in our Outpatient Infusion department made a comment I’ll never forget. He mentioned he didn’t have any food in his pantry and was afraid to go to the local food bank due to COVID-19. As he continued to open up to us, he said wasn’t sure how he was going to feed himself and his family in the coming week.
That one comment was all it took. As a team, we began discussing this issue and wondering if we had other patients who were also experiencing food insecurity. As we soon learned, there were.
Our team began brainstorming ways to identify and meet these needs through a more confidential and compassionate approach. We wanted to maintain patient dignity and respect while also providing the support they needed.
We devised a plan – patients would be given a personal tablet upon entering the department for treatment and would be asked to answer a few short questions addressing food supply and any insecurity surrounding food. This would allow patients to disclose such information without being asked directly by a nurse face-to-face, which could make some feel uncomfortable or embarrassed.
Because our patients come to us from many different areas, we started by identifying an assortment of food banks and other community resources throughout the region.
But providing resources wasn’t enough. It was important to provide immediate assistance to our patients in dire need. We began a conversation with community leaders and formed a partnership with a local food bank in our area.
Thanks to this partnership, we’re now able to provide 35 boxes of non-perishable food items each month to some of NGMC’s at-risk and underserved cancer patients. Our Outpatient Infusion team works to identify these patients in need each month and, through a collaborative effort with other Oncology Services team members, the food is loaded up and delivered to the patients.
What began as a comment from one patient has now spread to our community helping countless others. I’m so proud of our department’s hard work, innovation and persistence to continue providing the highest quality of care for our patients.
NGMC Receives National Recognition
Each year, the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) recognizes one team for its outstanding contributions within their workplace. The team is chosen not only for their work to improve patient care, but also their ability to make a difference within their community.
The ONS recently recognized NGMC’s very own Outpatient Infusion department for its “Team Achievement Award,” highlighting the incredible work our team has done to food in the hands of cancer patients who need it the most. I’m honored to be a part of this team and to serve our community.