Kane Named Certified Breast Care Nurse of the Year

April 5, 2018
By: Julie Poucher Harbin, Writer, Duke Cancer Institute

Duke Cancer Center ambulatory care nurse Susan Kane, RN, BSN, CBCN, CNIII, has been selected as the recipient of the 2018 Certified Breast Care Nurse (CBCN) of the Year Award by the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation — “chosen from among the best in the country as a shining example of oncology nursing at its finest.”

The award recognizes a CBCN who has made significant contributions to breast care nursing and breast care nursing service and who has supported and promoted breast care nursing and/or oncology nursing certification. Kane will be presented with a crystal award and $1,000 honorarium on Friday, May 18, during the recognition breakfast for oncology certified nurses at the Oncology Nursing Society’s Annual Congress in Washington, DC. 

A nurse for more than 40 years — nine of those in oncology — Kane is currently responsible for clinic flow at the breast cancer clinic, supervision of unlicensed staff, symptom management, and chemotherapy teaching for patients with all stages of breast cancer. She also handles triage and patient education for select patients and is active in unit and hospital education.  

“I was immensely surprised to be nominated and even more surprised to be selected for the award,” Kane said, adding that she grateful for the support of her nurse manager Heather Sperling, MSN, RN, OCN, who nominated her, together with breast oncologists Kelly Marcom, MD, and Jeremy Force, MD. 

In her nomination letter, Sperling, who’s worked with Kane for five years, wrote that Kane provides breast care nurses resources and knowledge that drive them to be “extraordinary oncology nurses,” and that Kane “has been an inspiration to all of the nurses on the unit and oncology nurses across campus and the nation.”

Susan Kane, RN, BSN, CBCN, CNIII“Bright spot,” said Sperling, when asked ‘what’s the first word that comes to mind when you think of Susan.’ “She’s just an incredible nurse.”

“The first word that comes to mind is fantastic!” said Force, who’s worked with Kane for four years. “Other words that describe her are empathetic, wise, caring, and humble. She has superior knowledge, is an excellent teacher and is an overall great human being. She is a master gardener with a big green thumb, loves her farm and livestock, and loves her family.”

Among other things, Force wrote in his official letter of support for Kane: “She is quite literally the best nurse I have ever worked with throughout all of my medical training and now as a faculty member…She is basically an attending physician focused on breast cancer at this point.”

Kane explained how she fell into oncology nursing.  

“I didn’t find oncology nursing, it found me,” she said. “I had been doing transcription work while I accompanied my husband as he took travel nursing assignments as a surgical nurse while we lived in an RV. We happened to be in Durham when it became clear that medical transcription was being phased out and I needed to find a different job. Well, I applied at Duke and didn't hear back for the longest time. I felt pretty discouraged. Anyway, I did finally get a call for a position in ambulatory care, in oncology, working with the breast team.”

Kane said she had cared for oncology patients throughout her career, but not as her primary population. Kane’s sister had gone through breast cancer treatment and “spoke of the tremendous support and help she received from her nurses.” That made an impact. Still, she realized she had some studying to do.

“I needed to do a lot of ‘homework’ to get up to speed on oncology in general and breast cancer particularly,” said Kane, who said she used the library a lot and “asked tons of questions.” 

Gradually she became more comfortable in her role helping patients with symptom management, navigating through the phases of their experience, and facing end-of-life issues, among many other aspects of cancer care. 

Eventually, she started educating new nurses on her unit, including those new to cancer care, and even teaching portions of courses offered through Duke nursing education.

In 2016, Kane won Oncology Nurse of the Year, a Duke University Health System Friends of Nursing (FON) Excellence Award.

“Breast cancer care has changed immensely since I became a nurse in 1974,” said Kane, singling out the advances in surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and other therapies that have led to better survivorship. “I stay in cancer nursing because it allows me the privilege of helping people through some of the toughest times they will ever have. That is something I have been able to do throughout my nursing career and I find it very rewarding.  I have met wonderful people including patients, families, staff and providers. I get to celebrate successes and work through tough challenges with them.”  

Kane is less than two years from retirement. When she finishes her nursing career “in this rewarding field,” she’ll go home to her little farm.

“Until that time, I hope I can help our program continue to grow and improve and contribute to caring for our patients and each other,” said Kane.