Emily Lemke always knew she wanted to work in health care. When she learned nursing provided an opportunity to help people while challenging her intellectually, it seemed like the career for her.
As a nursing graduate student, she decided to focus on oncology for that exact same reason.
“Caring for patients at such a vulnerable time in their life is a privilege, and something I don’t take lightly,” she says. “Helping patients navigate through their treatment trajectory, while also helping develop and carry out their treatment plan is what attracted to me to oncology.”
Lemke learned about MD Anderson’s Post Graduate Fellowship in Oncology Nursing early in her time as a graduate student at Creighton University. She spent the next three years becoming a stand-out candidate for the fellowship. This included taking oncology-focused electives and completing an oncology-based project as part of her studies. Lemke’s hard work paid off when she was accepted into the 2015-2016 fellowship program, which ended this August.
Lemke’s time as a fellow lived up to expectations. Rotating through more than 20 areas of the hospital was one highlight. “To go one week to leukemia and then another to CNS radiation oncology, it’s never going to happen again. I’m really appreciative that I got to see everything I did in that short year,” she says.
Lemke also appreciated the mentorship she received. Much of this came through work on an integrative review of the literature manuscript all fellows complete. During this process, the program’s leaders teach fellows how to evaluate the quality of published papers, write a summary of the existing literature on a topic, and submit their work to nursing journals.
“I think it’s important that nurse practitioners are viewed as both providers and scientists and continue to push the field forward…Symptom management is an area where we have a lot of experience. Looking at the whole person with that nursing eye gives us a unique perspective,” she says.
She also benefitted from less formal mentorship opportunities. Fellowship leaders essentially have an open-door policy, which allowed her to address any questions or concerns that arose during the year. And in the clinic, veteran physicians, nurses and nurse practitioners were eager to share their knowledge and experience.
Now a nurse practitioner in MD Anderson’s Genitourinary Medical Oncology department, Lemke uses the knowledge and skills she developed as a fellow to help patients every day. She got so much out of her time as a fellow that she still has “pinch-myself moments” when thinking about the experience.
“As I got to the end of my year, I looked back and realized just how much I learned. There are a lot of world-renowned experts that I’ve had access to. It’s not every day that you get to work with world-class clinicians. I speak too of the nurse practitioners. They’re the best of the best and getting to learn from these people is something that I’m always going to look back on and appreciate.”