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Radiation therapy with a human touch

Profiles in Care: Amanda Nelson, Chief Radiation Therapist, MRO | New Richmond, WI

Cancer is not for wimps. The disease itself can be physically and mentally debilitating, and the prospect of radiation treatment often looms large in the minds of patients. Fortunately, for patients at the Minneapolis Radiation Oncology Treatment Center in New Richmond, WI, Amanda Nelson is there to guide them through their journey.

Amanda works in a world filled with some of the most advanced treatment technology known to medical science: linear accelerators, electromagnetic radiation, intensity modulated beams, and multileaf collimators. The technology at her command is all about precision, right down to the millimeter. But for Amanda, the most amazing part of her work is not technology; it’s people. In fact, radiation therapy is sometimes called “technology with a human touch.”

Creating personal connection is a driving force in her career. Her passion for care is what brought this self-described “people person” to MRO, after years of work in hospital settings. “Here at MRO, I have more direct patient contact, and that’s what I like best.” Her bright personality and her commitment to her patients comes across from the very first interaction.

Amanda collaborates with radiation oncologists, dosimetrists, and medical physicists on the MRO care team to develop a personalized treatment plan for each patient. They double-check the plan before treatment begins and implement quality assurance procedures to ensure that each treatment is delivered in the exact same manner. As Amanda notes, “You can’t take radiation back.”

Radiation treatment can seem overwhelming, especially when people walk into a treatment room for the first time, but Amanda tries to put patients at ease immediately. She says, “Sometimes it can all seem so scary, but the treatment sessions are actually very uneventful. We try to explain as much as we can. And we love it when our patients ask questions. It keeps us on our toes. After all, we’re here for them.” She’s found that a simple smile goes a long way, even when a patient is having a bad day.

“We see people 20-30-40 times over the course of their treatment, so we do have the opportunity to establish a real relationship with our patients. When a patient allows us into their life, it’s really special, and there are people we look forward to seeing every day.” When one of those special patients completed her final treatment, Amanda and co-therapist Bridget Morgan surprised her with a confetti shower to celebrate. Their expertise and compassion made such an impression that you can now meet Deb Weinert, MRO Medical Secretary, at the therapy center front desk.

Perhaps the best illustration of her passion for care came when Amanda was working a hospital internship as she was finishing up her degree. During a treatment session, one of her patients touched her on the shoulder. “This,” the patient told her, “is where you were meant to be.”