By Nancy Gay
Ann Nelson was just 14 years old when her mother passed from cancer, but watching the way nurses cared for her mom as she fought the disease for three years sparked her interest in pursuing a nursing career. It is also family tradition. Nelson’s mom and two aunts were nurses.
Nelson joined the Moffitt Cancer Center family four years ago and works in the phone triage unit of the Hematology Clinic. She spends her days talking to patients who have questions about their diagnosis, are experiencing symptoms or need medication refills. The team of four handles thousands of calls each month. Nelson says she enjoys when patients call in grumpy or upset and by the end of the call they are laughing because she knows she made a difference.
Nelson worked as a clinical nurse at a small cancer center before moving to Tampa. She says while there isn’t any face-to-face interaction with patients in her role, she speaks to patients every day and feels good about providing education and helping solve their problems.
Nelson knows what it is like to be on the other end of the line. In 2012 doctors diagnosed her with breast cancer. A single mother, she was scared and worried about what would happen to her children. She underwent two surgeries and radiation and is still in remission seven years later.
She often shares her experience with patients and offers encouragement as she advises them to take it one day at a time and not look at the big picture.
At age 54, Nelson is back in school with sights set on earning her bachelor’s degree in Nursing. She tells young nursing students to stay in school even if they have to do it online while still working.