Shirley Harris, RN, nurse manager at the Jimmy Everest Center Clinic at Children’s Hospital is grateful that nurses coming into the field are seeking out the knowledge from more experienced nurses.

by James Coburn – staff writer

To see a child free of cancer is nothing short of amazing, said Shirley Harris, RN, and nurse manager at the Jimmy Everest Center Clinic at Children’s Hospital, located in Oklahoma City. She is part of a dedicated nursing team caring for patients and families.
The Jimmy Everest Center provides comprehensive care and treatment for children with cancer and blood disorders.
A nurse can never know the exact amount of stress a child endures, Harris said.
But it’s wonderful to see a child grow up and feel like you’ve been part of making a difference in their lives, even just a small difference makes all the effort of being a nurse worth it. (story continues below)

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“They are so excited to introduce you to their wife or their husband and their child,” she said. “They will tell you what they’ve done with their lives and what’s their job now. Some of them have gone on to medical school and nursing school. It’s amazing to know you’ve made even a small tidbit of impression upon them. You feel like you’ve done your job well enough that they want to reflect that same feeling as they grow older.”
Harris always cared for her classmates when in grade school, so her classmates always predicted that she would become a nurse.
“Throughout the years we’ve got to make sure that you come into nursing with a very solid ground of knowing who you are,” Harris said. “You are there to help the families and the patients.”
Harris earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree at the University of Oklahoma in 1988. Today, she supervises the entire clinical and administrative staffs while assisting all the providers. Additionally, she works on policies and communication with patients regarding concerns. There are quality improvement projects. Her tasks include filling in when somebody is out of the office, such as insurance investigations.
“There’s all kinds of different nursing, but I think it takes a special heart to take care of the patients that have pediatric cancer and blood disorders. You are not only taking care of the patient, but you are also taking care of the immediate family, and sometimes the extended family,” Harris said.
Education is helpful for families. They want straight answers and yet cling to some hope.
Nurses aspiring to a career encountering sick children must know that cancer still claims too many lives. It can be very difficult for a nurse, even if they step back and tell themselves not to get too attached, Harris continued.
“You’re human and you have to accept that when you walk through the door, you will get attached to someone — that’s just the way life is,” she said. “And you want to make sure that you have that empathy, and you can interact with the families, because if you can’t, you’re just not going to make a great nurse.”
It’s important to be able to step back and know you are taking care of yourself as well, Harris said.
The Jimmy Everest Center Clinic at Children’s Hospital has a wide range of nurses who have been there 13-18 years.
“It’s amazing to see a set of nurses in the same specialty, especially now, when nurses can go into other fields,” Harris said.
“There is so much more to nursing than just laying your hands on a patient and being able to take care of them,” she said.
Advances in technology brings a lot to learn for nurses at Children’s Hospital. There’s a lot more these days than just basic care. The technological advances that have helped children have been very encouraging for Harris since she graduated from nursing school.
“Just over the past 34 years, even just seeing the new medications that they’ve come out with chemotherapy, bone marrow transplants, it’s amazing what you can see that has increased the life expectancy of a lot of these kids that years ago did not have a chance,” Harris said. “It’s wonderful to see the treatments so the kids can grow up like they should.”
Children are a lot more resilient than people give them credit for, Harris said. Children may become scared when having an injection or having access to an infusion cord.
“But then they will turn right around and just tell you a joke or want to run up and down the hallways playing with you,” she said. “They just bounce back really quick. It’s so nice to see them want to live their life and want to go to school and do all of the things a child wants to do, other than ‘I’m just here to get my chemotherapy or be sick.’”
Most nurses stay dedicated when entering the field of pediatric oncology at Children’s Hospital. Once it’s in their heart, it’s hard to give up. Being a nurse has touched her life.
“We had a young lady come to the clinic one day. She remembered me starting an IV. This was probably 10 years ago. And she gave me a simple compliment that no one has been able to start an IV that fast. She remembered my name, and it was something so simple, but it just made my day. It’s just those simple comments from patients and parents that makes everything go away and it makes your day,” she said.
To find out more about the Jimmy Everest Center visit: