Inside Riley’s Stem Cell Transplant Unit: ‘She Is Like The Best Nurse Ever’

Blog Hancock Cortney Riley 01 0720 Md

Nurse Cortney Hancock has found the key to bonding with her patients is to remember something very important: Their disease isn’t who they are – not even close.

Tessa Burns remembers that wonderful nurse in red, coming into her room. Cortney Hancock talked to Tessa about the stuff Tessa liked. Music. Movies. Teenage girl stuff.

Not her cancer.

“She is like the best nurse ever,” says Tessa, who is on maintenance chemo after battling acute lymphocytic leukemia (Tessa’s story here). “I just loved her.” 

Hancock, who has been at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health for 11 years, takes care of some of the sickest patients inside those hospital walls.

She’s found the key to bonding with her kids is to remember something very important: Their disease isn’t who they are – not even close.

“Don’t talk about them just as a patient and just about their disease,” says Hancock. “Whatever they love, it’s so important to talk to them about that.”

Because her patients are often in her unit for so long, Hancock says she tries to make them as comfortable as possible.  

“That continuity of care and having everyday conversations with them is important,” she says.

Hancock truly gets what it takes to connect with her patients, says Tessa’s mom, Jill Burns. “She is absolutely wonderful.”


At first, Hancock thought she wanted to be a doctor -- until she realized being a nurse would offer much more intimate, bedside care.  

After graduating from Carmel High School, she went to Cincinnati for nursing school. 

She fell into a tech position on the bone marrow transplant floor at a children’s hospital. After graduating, she stayed as a nurse on that floor and adored it.

Eleven years ago, Hancock came to Riley to the stem cell transplant unit – where patients with renal diseases also stay.

There are plenty of days that are tough, she says, even more so after having her daughter, Hayden.

It’s been hard, says Hancock. She cries more often.

“I can truly see the parent’s perspective. There are just some patients and families, they just break your heart,” she says. “They really stick with you.”

More with Hancock

Personal: She and husband, Kevin, live in Fishers and have a daughter, 1-year-old Hayden. 

Advice to new nurses: “It’s hard. It’s so much harder in the beginning than I ever thought. Just remember, don’t just get caught up in the medical side of things. Remember to always see the big picture.”

Outside of Riley: Hancock loves going to any type of sporting event, including a lot of Pacers and Colts games. She and her husband also enjoy visiting wineries and spending time with their families.

-- By Dana Benbow, Senior Journalist at IU Health.

   Reach Benbow via email or on Twitter @danabenbow.

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