By Toni Allen
When she first decided to go into nursing, Barbara Prisco had no idea of the path this decision would take her. She received a diploma in nursing from New York’s Bellevue School
of Nursing in 1962. Since those early days, Barbara has been a very busy lady. But it is within the last few years that she realized she has finally found her home. Barbara Prisco is the oncology program coordinator at Parrish Medical Center in Titusville.
This is Barbara’s 46th year in nursing and what a career she has had. From her years in the Army Student Nurse Program (1961-1962), Army Reserves (1961-1963 and 1989-1994) to law school (1989-1993), she has continued to grow in knowledge and experience with every turn she has made. Besides formal education along the way (she has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in English, and a juris doctor in law), Barbara has gained experience in her many different nursing roles. She has worked in critical care, in the Emergency Room, with dialysis patients, and as a transplant coordinator. However, about a year and half ago she was given the chance to move into Oncology and it has changed her life. She is certified in chemotherapy and in 2006 took the oncology certified nurse exam for her certification in oncology.
And now, with duties and a work schedule that would keep anyone hopping, Barbara is loving life. Her long list of duties include research nurse in Total Cancer Care, nurse navigator for all oncology patients, inpatient/outpatient care navigator for the Breast Health Navigation Program just launched by Parrish, facilitator for the Positive Attitudes Cancer Support Group, and the outreach and Cancer Education Seminar coordinator. She handles patient/family/community programs for Parrish, and the Cancer Program Hotline. She is an active member of numerous cancer, patient care and nursing committees, and is chairing the 2008 Relay for Life event for Titusville.
Barbara has served as a research nurse since February 2006, coordinating patient information with the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute in Tampa. It is a 70,000-person study of over 200 types of cancer and the connection to genetics and family history.
Barbara has seen a great deal over the years, and is now part of the changes in cancer patient care. “When I came into nursing, very few people survived cancer,” she explained. Today, cancer screening procedures are so much better and the survival rate has increased. With Barbara’s involvement in each stage of the care process, she has a wide base of knowledge and can more than adequately serve as the facilitator of the process a cancer patient goes through once diagnosed.
All along the way, Barbara is there for her patients to help educate, to refer them to the appropriate screenings, to refer them to doctors and surgeons, to give personalized patient care and to offer support and contact with support groups. There are huge benefits to this Total Care approach. The patients have a single source for total support from one end of the spectrum to the other, so they have a more individualized connection instead of having to deal with multiple offices and people. And another benefit is that they are getting each step of their personalized quality care at a single facility, Parrish Medical Center, unlike previous years when a patient would have to go out of town to get some of the necessary diagnostic tests or treatments.
The latest program launched at Parrish Medical Center is the Breast Health Navigation Program. This program includes two navigators Sharon Griffis in Diagnostic Imaging and Barbara in Patient Care. In this capacity, Barbara handles the nursing follow-up after a breast cancer patient has had a mammogram and guides her through whatever steps are necessary for her treatment. She also provides support throughout the crisis and handles the cancer hotline.
Barbara’s compassion and dedication to cancer patients, the quality of their lives and the comfort for their souls is unending. And so is her energy! From the Bellevue School of Nursing to the Army’s Ready Reserves, from California to the Space Coast, from the ER to oncology, for 46 years Barbara Prisco has offered herself to the caring of others. She says, “This is my last job in nursing [But] I’m not ready to give it up yet.”
Evidence of that is the Relay for Life planned for April 26 and 27 of 2008 in Titusville. With the dedicated assistance of Co-Chair Donna Hamilton, Barbara is coordinating and planning of 24-hour race/walk team event to raise money for cancer research.
For the future, Barbara is trying her hand at writing. She is currently working on a suspense novel set in Florida during the 2004 hurricane season. But for now, home for Barbara is her endeavors in oncology and cancer patient care.