Debbie Lafond began her career at Children’s National in 1991 as a clinical coordinator of the IV therapy team, and joined the department of Hematology/Oncology a year later as an advanced practice clinician. Now, as a nurse practitioner, Debbie cares for children with a wide variety of oncologic diagnoses, but her main focus is caring for children with brain tumors. She coordinates the delivery of complex care for patients in the Neuro-Oncology program and is also the program coordinator for the Pediatric Advanced Needs Assessment (PANDA) Care Team, Children’s inpatient palliative care consult service.
Debbie is proud to be one of the founding members of the PANDA Care Team, which began in 2005 as a nurse-driven initiative. The team’s focus is to prevent, reduce, or soothe the symptoms of patients in the advanced stages of illness. The PANDA initiative grew quickly at Children’s National, and is now a hospital-wide service.
She says what inspires her most about working at Children’s National are the children, “I learn so much more from them than they probably do from me! The energy and resilience of these children with life-threatening illnesses is extraordinary. I learn something every day by watching and listening to them.”
She adds, “I also enjoy the respect and autonomy of nursing practice at Children’s National. I feel that I am a respected part of the team and what I bring to the table is valued by families, physicians, and nursing colleagues. Oncology and Palliative Care are good examples of trans-disciplinary practice, meaning that an entire team of health care professionals are needed to give the highest quality of care. Each member of the team brings their unique perspective and experience, and together we provide the best possible care for each unique patient and family.”
Debbie is a treasured part of Children’s Magnet nursing team, and a true role model for her colleagues at Children’s National. “If I can help one family through the crisis of the cancer journey, then I have made a difference. My mantra is: one nurse, one patient, one family at a time. You don’t have to be the vice president of Nursing to make a difference. You can start with just one patient.”
Most importantly, Debbie says, “The patients and families come first, before anything else. I want to make a difference for them so that as they go through the journey of childhood cancer to hopefully survivorship, but even if their child does not survive, they know that their child is treated with the best possible care and compassion and their child left a legacy no matter what the outcome was.”