Nurse Studies Pain Relief for Cancer Patients

NorthShore Nurse Kim Cholewa, RN-BC, MSN

For Kim Cholewa, nursing is the perfect combination of science and compassion. The 28-year-old NorthShore Glenbrook Hospital nurse knew what her career path would look like while in high school. “It’s always felt right,” said Cholewa, who is a staff nurse on the medical oncology floor.

As she mastered her clinical skills, she felt the need to look at the bigger picture and applied for a place in the NorthShore Nurse Research Fellows Program. Helped by philanthropy, including from the North Suburban Healthcare Foundation, this initiative enables selected applicants to take one day a month away from the bedside to focus on a research project.

Cholewa started working on a feasibility study on the use of honey as a preventive or treatment therapy for cancer patients who often develop painful ulcerations in their mouth as a side effect from radiation and/or chemotherapy.

Called stomatitis, the condition is difficult to treat and symptoms include oral pain, difficulty swallowing and oral infections. “Sometimes the pain is intolerable and patients can’t eat or drink,” said Cholewa. “It’s something I see every day, and it can be very debilitating.” She started reading about the soothing and immune-protecting qualities of a particular type of unprocessed, raw and natural honey (called ”Manuka honey”) that is not readily available.

With the support of Vida Vizgirda, RN, PhD, JD, OCN, NorthShore’s Director of Nursing Professional Development and Research, and the Department of Radiation Oncology, Cholewa began working on a feasibility study that would allow NorthShore to examine Manuka honey’s effects on cancer-related stomatitis. Cholewa’s proposal is close to being finished and will next be submitted to NorthShore’s Independent Review Board (IRB) for approval. Vizgirda said the study of this potential treatment option wouldn’t be available without philanthropic support. “We hope to begin the study as soon as we receive IRB approval, said Cholewa. “To focus on innovative research to impact patient care, we need the tools. Philanthropy is a huge component that allows us to do that.”

Please consider making a donation to support the field of nursing during National Nurses Week, May 6–12. Tax-deductible gifts allow you to Say Thanks And Recognize excellence in nursing while providing vital scholarships and professional development opportunities for NorthShore nurses.

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