Nurse On Riley’s Cancer Unit: ‘These Are Brave Kids Who Smile In Face Of Fear’

Blog Harmon Web

Jacob Harmon is a night shift nurse on the stem cell transplant unit. He’s known as a ray of light in the darkness.

His name kept coming up over and over and over again. This awesome nurse named Jacob Harmon.

He’s the night shift nurse on the stem cell transplant unit at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health’s cancer center. He’s a ray of light in the darkness.

He brings smiles to the patients. He knows what their hopes and dreams are. He knows how to calm their fears.

“Jake is amazing,” says Amber French Price. “Kaylee adored him from day 1.”

Kaylee passed away in 2013 at the age of 7 after a hard-fought battle with brain cancer. Harmon says that photo of he and Kaylee is still his favorite of all time. The one where she is all dressed up and smiling -- with Harmon next to her in his red tie.

Harmon, who has been at Riley eight years, really, truly gets to know the kids. We wanted to get to know Harmon a little better. Take a look.

What drew you to a career in nursing?

“Growing up and thinking about future ambitions, I always thought about how much I'd enjoy being a pediatrician. I love kids and have always been a big kid myself so I thought working with children would be a good way to fulfill my interest in the sciences and still have a reason to play video games and watch Disney movies. In college, I studied pre-med for three years before I strayed from the path a little bit and refocused to a career in nursing.”

Favorite patient story or memory?

“Is it a cop-out to say I have too many to list? On the stem cell transplant unit, we prepare families for a stay of around six weeks. Sometimes, it's shorter and, often, it's longer. The long hospitalizations allow you as a nurse to really get to know the kids that you take care of. You know what they like and what makes them happy and what they are hopeful for. You know what they fear and how to comfort them during times that they are afraid. When all is said and done, it's incredibly rewarding to know that something that you did for someone could make the worst day in their lives, or maybe even the worst week or month, just a little bit better.”

How do you get through the sad times?

“Working in the cancer center, we get to see literal life-saving miracles, but there are difficult times as well. Leaning on coworkers is a must for me. We spend a lot of time talking about the many extraordinary kids that we've taken care of. There are shifts where we spend much of our downtime sharing our special moments and memories of those kids and many that we have lost.” 

What does it take to be a great nurse?

“I think a passion for your patient population is a strong quality in a great nurse. In the cancer center, we are extremely passionate about all of our brave and resilient kids who can still laugh and smile in the face of fear and pain. We take our passion and weave it into the care that we give to our kids. We work really hard to protect them and advocate for them and give them the absolute best possible outcome and quality of life. This is not exclusive to the cancer center. You will find this all throughout every unit and individual room in Riley.”

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

   Reach Benbow via email or on Twitter @danabenbow.

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