A 25-year career in oncology nursing has taken Janet Shehata, MS, RN, from Brooklyn and Long Island, where she was born and raised, to Massachusetts and Maine, and home again to Long Island, where she now serves as administrative director at Perlmutter Cancer Center at NYU Langone Hospital—Long Island.
Shehata said her clinical background brings experience that not all administrative directors possess.
“Having clinical expertise gives me an understanding overall of how oncology departments operate and what they need,” Shehata said. “This comes into play especially when I collaborate with colleagues who oversee clinical staff. My clinical experience enables us to make better decisions collaboratively because we share the same knowledge.”
Working closely with the leadership team at Perlmutter Cancer Center in Mineola, and with her counterparts throughout the cancer center system-wide, Shehata oversees administrative operations for the infusion centers in Mineola, Lake Success, and Huntington; pediatric oncology; the cancer center’s oncology nurse navigation program; and social workers and dieticians. She also serves as the lead for any cancer center–related programmatic initiatives on Long Island and collaborates with cancer center leadership on any strategies for expansion.
Shehata started her oncology nursing career at Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport, Massachusetts, in 1999, where she worked first as a staff nurse on an inpatient oncology floor and then in the hospital’s outpatient oncology clinic. A move to Maine—with a brief stop to get married—took her to Maine Medical Center in Portland, where she worked on both inpatient and outpatient oncology units. There she eventually became the medical center’s blood and marrow transplant coordinator, helping support the hospital’s accreditations with the Association for the Advancement of Blood & Biotherapies (AABB) and the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT).
In 2006, Shehata returned to Long Island to take a position at Winthrop Hospital (now NYU Langone Hospital—Long Island) as the nurse manager of the inpatient oncology unit.
Coordinating cancer care for patients across an area as large as Long Island can be challenging. Over the last year, Shehata has overseen the standardization of the scheduling process so that appointments at all three Long Island infusion sites are scheduled the same way.
To help physicians on Long Island more effectively refer patients to appropriate Perlmutter Cancer Center specialists, Shehata oversees the work of a physician liaison and works closely with the Faculty Group Practice, comprising the more than 3,000 doctors employed by NYU Langone.
Shehata was involved in implementing the cancer center’s outpatient autologous stem cell transplant program. She is also playing a role in the expansion of Perlmutter Cancer Center’s Blood and Marrow Transplant Program on Long Island, serving as “boots on the ground” leadership, ensuring that appropriate staff policies and processes are in place.
Treating people with any chronic disease, but particularly cancer, can be stressful for the care team. Shehata developed a Lavender Response Team for Perlmutter Cancer Center on Long Island. The program promotes staff wellness and is designed to provide initial intervention to restore calmness and a feeling of support after a stressful event at work. These events may include stress associated with patient care, such as death or an unexpected outcome, as well as events that directly affect staff, such as an injury, assault, illness, or death. Lavender Response Team members include staff working in social work, nursing, radiation oncology, pastoral care, and administration.
With improvements in cancer treatment, support for cancer survivors becomes more important, Shehata noted. She said that there have been initial discussions to establish a survivorship clinic for patients on Long Island that would help cancer survivors as they navigate their posttreatment lives. Some ways of supporting survivors that are being discussed are a focus on wellness and helping survivors adopt healthy eating habits that could reduce the risk of cancer recurrence, occupational or physical therapy to help with the lingering side effects of treatment, and education on keeping up to date on the latest guidelines for cancer screening.
Shehata said that survivorship care currently takes place in the oncologist’s office, but the goal is to help educate primary care physicians on best practices for cancer survivors.
“I am a two-time cancer survivor, and I know that the focus of care changes,” Shehata said. “A cancer survivor doesn’t necessarily need to see an oncologist, but someone who knows how to deal with the long-term side effects of the treatments they received and what steps need to be taken moving forward to maintain their quality of life.”
Shehata understands the bond that often forms between a patient and their oncology team: “We have grateful patients that want to give back to the organization that treated them or treated their loved one.”
To fulfill that desire, Shehata is partnering with NYU Langone Hospital—Long Island’s development team to provide more opportunities for patients to give back and contribute.