Beverly LaVally, RN, MS, is a clinical nurse specialist in the Pediatric Brain Tumor Program at MassGeneral Hospital for Children. The best part of her job is caring for patients and families, even if much of her job occurs behind-the-scenes.
What do you like most about your job?
What I like most about my job, other than the honor of working with such wonderful colleagues and families, is the ability to use my years of experience to help make a difference for every one of our patients and their families. A lot of what I do in my job is more behind-the-scenes, and although I am focused on excellence in patient care, I do not do a lot of hands-on care. I take great pride in the fact that although I may not be as involved in patient care as I was in the past, I do everything possible to create a program that is the best patients can expect anywhere. I coordinate and prepare the conference where we present the scans, history and pathology of new patients trying to come to MGHfC and the scans of all our patients in follow up. This is a task that takes many hours a week and I work very hard to be sure we have all the latest information and follow-up to best present these patients. It is a true team effort and my teammates are incredible.
Have you encountered any obstacles on your journey as a woman? If so, how did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge for me as a woman has been the balance of work and home life. Thanks to Massachusetts General Hospital and Dr. Tarbell, I have worked part-time raising my children while still having a stimulating and meaningful career, and that is the biggest gift I have been given.
What is one piece of advice you would give a woman entering the field of medicine and/or healthcare?
Work hard, be confident, stand up for what you believe in and always remember that your patients come first. Find a balance between work and home life - you deserve it. Never be intimidated by those who don't deserve to intimidate you and believe in yourself!
Has there been an influential woman in your life who supported or inspired you on your journey into health care/medicine?
I would say that both my mother and Dr. Tarbell have been influential women in shaping my career. Not only has Dr. Tarbell been a mentor and a peer, she has been a dear colleague. She believed in my abilities enough to bring me to MGHfC. We had worked together at another institution and my talents were appreciated. She created an environment in which I could think, work hard and be creative in creating a program for our patients and families. Dr. Tarbell never thinks of another team member as anyone but important. The fact that I was a nurse rather than a physician never came into play when it came to working together to solve problems and creating an environment of exceptional patient care. She is the ultimate in cultivating a wonderful work environment as a team leader and makes everyone on the team feel important. She has also done so much for women in medicine, and is the perfect example of how to foster relationships to build leaders.
Earlier on in my career, I was shaped by my smart and independent mother who was ahead of her time in her own nursing career. She showed me many examples over the years of the power of strong nursing care and advocating for your patients. When she was the director of nursing at a private psychiatric hospital, she showed me the importance of the patients coming first. I remember she would sleep in her office if there was going to be a big snow storm so someone would be there for the patients in the morning.
Describe your journey into health care.
I have worked at MGHfC for 17 years. I was brought here by Nancy Tarbell, MD, to start the Pediatric Brain Tumor Clinic and help coordinate the Brain Tumor Program with the advent of the Proton Center to prepare for the influx of brain tumor patients from around the world. I had worked with Dr. Tarbell at another hospital for 14 years and she came here to open the Proton Center. In total, I have worked with children with brain tumors for over 30 years.At the other hospital, I was also instrumental in starting a pediatric brain tumor clinic.
A huge thing in my career that I am incredibly humbled by and very proud of is being on the ground floor of the inception of the National Brain Tumor Society, an organization that is more than 29 years old that has helped thousands of patients and raised millions of dollars to find a cure for brain tumors. The founder of the organization, Bonnie Feldman, is the mother of a patient we took care of at another hospital. She started the organization after she lost her son to a brain tumor by making phone calls as a volunteer in my office.
I am also incredibly proud of my daughter, who is also a nurse at Mass General.
What is special about MassGeneral Hospital for Children?
Pediatric Hematology and Oncology is an incredibly special place. Our patients receive state-of-the-art care in an environment that is personal on an unparalleled level. When I arrived at MGHfC, I quickly learned that bigger is not always better. Our patients get the best care I have ever witnessed.