National Nurses Month provides crucial recognition and appreciation of the incredible contributions of nurses who dedicate their lives to providing compassionate care to patients. In honor of this special month, we are proud to profile our very own Marlene Bestak, RN, BSN. Marlene’s commitment to patient well-being makes her an exceptional healthcare professional, and we are grateful to have her as a member of the New York Proton Center team.
Marlene’s journey in healthcare began with a deep fascination for medicine. Her parents’ accounts of the Red Cross’s lifesaving efforts during their liberation from concentration camps ignited a sense of admiration for the medical field from a young age. Several other members of Marlene’s family also chose healthcare careers, including her twin sister who is also an oncology nurse.
After completing a Bachelor of Arts in English and Spanish literature, Marlene discovered that her true passion lay in a different field. Encouraged by her late husband, a pediatric oncologist, she pursued a nursing program at Weill-Cornell Medical Center for college graduates and earned a second bachelor’s degree. Marlene’s journey in oncology nursing truly began at Weill-Cornell, where she had the opportunity to work with a wide range of patients and developed a particular affinity for oncology nursing along the way.
Throughout her career, Marlene has worked at various healthcare institutions, including a private oncology practice in Houston, Texas, and at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. Over the course of more than a decade Marlene worked closely with Vicki Browne, another oncology nurse at a medical oncology practice in Manhattan, and they became close friends. Following her tenure at Mount Sinai, Marlene reunited with Vicki, who is now Nurse Manager at NYPC, when she joined the team in 2020.
At NYPC, Marlene’s typical day involves carrying out responsibilities that extend beyond solely providing medical support. Collaborating with an interdisciplinary team of physicians, therapists, social workers, nutritionists and others, Marlene ensures that patients receive comprehensive care. With her expertise and compassionate approach, she takes charge of assessing patients, connecting them with essential resources, and presenting critical information to NYPC’s radiation oncologists. Marlene and the other nurses on the team also teach patients about what to expect during treatment and how to manage side effects.
Marlene also provides emotional support for her patients. She came to NYPC in March 2020, just as the world was grappling with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the challenging circumstances, Marlene’s dedication and resilience shined through as she navigated her role in patient care during these unprecedented times. One of the significant changes she witnessed was the necessary restrictions on family members accompanying patients to appointments, even for bell-ringing ceremonies on the last day of treatment. Recognizing the importance of emotional support, Marlene stepped up her efforts to provide comfort and reassurance to patients who faced treatment alone. She became their surrogate family, offering a listening ear, holding their hands, and offering words of encouragement.
Patients often share their stories of hope and perseverance, motivating Marlene to give her best each day. They remind Marlene of the resilience of the human spirit and reinforce her commitment to making a difference in the lives of her patients. She believes that those who choose a career in nursing will be “richly rewarded.”
As Marlene continues her journey in oncology nursing, she envisions a future where cancer treatments become even more personalized and targeted. She believes in the power of research and hopes to contribute to advancements in oncology that will ultimately lead to better outcomes for her patients. Marlene also emphasizes the importance of self-care for nurses and healthcare professionals. Recognizing the emotional toll that caring for cancer patients can have, she encourages her colleagues to prioritize their well-being and seek support when needed.
As we come to the end of National Nurses Month, let us recognize and honor nurses like Marlene who make a difference in the lives of countless individuals, bringing hope and healing to those in need.
Marlene Bestak, RN, BSN is part of the New York Proton Center’s Clinical Support Team. To learn more about the NYPC care team and how we offer holistic patient support during your proton therapy treatment, contact us and we’ll connect you with a member of our team.