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Chemo bell mounted in Orthopedics & Surgical Care unit at Skagit Valley Hospital to celebrate patient chemotherapy completion

Woman in red t shirt rings bell with right arm, balloons pictured to right of woman.

On Saturday, June 24, Emily Conklin celebrated the completion of her chemotherapy at the Orthopedics and Surgical Care (OSC) unit at Skagit Valley Hospital. To commemorate this huge milestone, Emily had the honor of ringing the chemo bell – and was the first OSC chemo patient to do so.

This is because OSC recently installed a brand new chemo bell to their unit. Ringing of a bell to mark the end of cancer treatment is a cancer facility tradition that has been around since 1996 . Irve Le Moyne, a rear admiral in the Navy in Texas, was undergoing radiation for head and neck cancer. When treatment ended, he planned to follow a Navy tradition of ringing a bell to signify “when the job was done.” When that day arrived, he brought in a brass bell, rang it a few times, and donated it for other cancer patients to do the same.

When first hearing about this tradition from a staff member, the OSC team realized they were missing out on a great opportunity. They agreed to establish an end-of-cancer-treatment process to celebrate each patient as they reach this milestone. The first step and biggest step was acquiring a bell.

Bryce Dickie, RN, MN, BSN, CMSRN, Orthopedic Surgical Care Unit and Inpatient Wound/Ostomy Manager, discussed with team members at Skagit Regional Health Cancer Care to learn about their celebration and bell, and how to get started.

“This is exciting for staff,” said Bryce when speaking about the bell. “Most patients who come to OSC for chemo spend 3-5 days with us and then return monthly for multiple cycles. We get to know these patients, their families and friends. The addition of this celebration will be exciting for all involved.”

After securing a bell, they ordered a plaque to be hung on the wall next to the it. The plaque was made by an SRH outpatient oncology nurse’s husband and reads, “When your last chemo has come and gone, ring the bell to tell everyone!”. They also created certificates that are handed to patients during the celebration. Staff members have the opportunity to write heart-felt messages for the patient on the certificate before given to the patient.

Emily is surrounded by Skagit Valley Hospital staff clapping as she celebrates chemotherapy completion.

The OSC unit staff are thrilled to have the bell in place to celebrate their patients’ successes. “Seeing the patients laugh, cry and celebrate their chemo success made an impact on me,” shared Mary Ann Sains, staff nurse at OSC. “Their commitment to the regimen, enduring the side effects, and the fear that they endure is enough to want to celebrate each and every one!”

With a committed, caring team and the desire to celebrate their patients’ treatment wins, the OSC unit now has a bell and plaque in place for patients to ring out their treatment. Emily Conklin was the first to celebrate the end of her treatment with the new OSC bell and had her support group surrounding her to share in the moment. “I’m so excited for Emily to be the first chemo patient to ring the bell!” exclaimed Mary Ann. “I know she really wanted to do it.”