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Patient Care: Clinical Nurse Profile

Annual Report - 2005-2006

Just a Phone Call Away

By Mary Jane Schier

Mary Beth Rios, R.N., planned to stay only a year when a nurse recruiter convinced her to come to M. D. Anderson in 1975.

“I had just finished nursing school in Chicago and intended to return there to be a clinical nurse specialist in cardiology,” recalls Rios, research nurse manager in the Department of Leukemia and recipient of the 2006 Ethel Fleming Arceneaux Outstanding Nurse-Oncologist Award.

Long before being chosen for that honor, Rios was considered a model for M. D. Anderson’s core value of caring by her physician and nursing colleagues, as well as hundreds of leukemia patients who appreciate her prompt availability to answer endless questions and explain the intricacies of their therapies.

“The standards Mary Beth has set have become a hallmark of excellence throughout the Division of Cancer Medicine,” notes Hagop M. Kantarjian, M.D., chair of the Department of Leukemia. He coordinated nominating her for the award given annually by The Brown Foundation, Inc., to recognize outstanding M. D. Anderson nurses.

Rios, whose mother was a nurse, thinks she has “the best job in the nursing profession.” As a research nurse manager, she is responsible for more than 200 patients enrolled in at least seven active clinical trials that are evaluating promising new therapies for leukemia.

“I love being a research nurse. Virtually all of our patients are on clinical trials, so I get to know and interact with them throughout their treatments and follow-up care. I also understand their anxieties,” says Rios, who had surgery at M. D. Anderson in 1980 to remove a benign pituitary tumor.

“I won’t ever forget what it’s like being a patient and having to depend on others,” Rios stresses. “Each of our patients is going through a traumatic experience. I give them my cell number because I know that a three-minute phone call can save hours or perhaps days of stress when they’re worried about something.”

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center