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Health Care Hero - Clinical nurse Mary Catherine "Cathy" Gray

Updated: March 16, 2010 - 9:07 am

Posted: February 5, 2010

Laughter isn't something you'd expect to find around an oncology unit, but that's often the case in the medical oncology unit at Sentara Obici Hospital where Mary Catherine "Cathy" Gray is clinical manager.

"Laughter is such a huge component of healing," Gray said. "We do everything that we can to bring laughter into the medical setting."

Gray and her team are planning a cowboy day in February where nurses dress up as cowboys and sing to the patients.

"The patients and their families aren't used to it," she said. "We have fun but maintain a professional relationship and level on the floor."

Oncology has a special place in Gray's heart.

"I always wanted to be a nurse. My father passed away of head and neck cancer and I spent a lot of time taking care of him as a young teacher and always wanted to do that," she said.

Her life took a different direction when she married and had children, but when her children got a little older, Gray pursued that dream and attended nursing school at DePaul Hospital, graduating in 1995. She is now a certified oncology nurse and while she spends a lot of time laughing with her team and with her patients, tearful goodbyes are an unfortunate part of the job as well.

"Oncology can be a sad place to work. Some of the bravest people I've ever met have been diagnosed with cancer," she said. "It's an honor to be with someone at the end of life. I want to make sure people die with dignity and in the way they want to." nib

- Mary Worrell