December 15, 2016

‘All in’ for Clinical Care Excellence

Caring, Compassionate, Skilled. These adjectives describe nurses that every patient wants at the bedside. They also apply to Holly Langster, the Myeloma Center’s director of clinical operations, who joined our team in July. An advanced practice nurse with more than 20 years of nursing experience, Langster holds a Doctor of Nursing Practice, a degree that is focused on evidence-based practice, quality improvement and systems leadership, and a master’s in health care administration.

When Langster started her career in Canton, Illinois, fresh out of nursing school, she was eager to learn the ropes and become an accomplished practitioner for her patients. Her enthusiasm attracted the attention of an experienced charge nurse, who “taught her how things were done.” Langster took in everything and quickly honed her skills. She learned about managing a hospital unit, as well, and the importance of mentoring. Langster was particularly struck by the benefits — for patients, families, and staff — of a comprehensive approach to patient care. She also was moved by witnessing her nursing mentor go through tough treatment for breast cancer and eventually succumb.

It is no wonder that Langster jumped at an opportunity to join an ambitious team in Springfield, Illinois, that was embarking on an exciting project: building a dedicated breast center at the Southern Illinois University Cancer Institute (now called the Simmons Cancer Institute at SIU). The goal was to develop a one-stop center that would provide integrated, comprehensive services in an environment of compassion and expertise. Langster helped make it happen. Her years of experience with the breast center, where she functioned in both clinical and administrative roles, solidified her passion. She realized how much she enjoyed working with cancer patients and ensuring that they received seamless care.

“Cancer patients are different from other kinds of patients,” she said. “If they are going to seek treatment, they are all in. Cancer patients place tremendous trust in their health care team. The information they get is complicated and confusing. We need to be clear to them about what they need to do.”

Langster made the move from Illinois to Arkansas when her husband, originally from Arkansas, accepted an opportunity to return to his home state. Initially, she worked in nursing administration and leadership roles at one of the region’s medical complexes. When the director of clinical operations position at the Myeloma Center became available, Langster knew she had to check it out. Comparing the Myeloma Center to the Illinois breast center in its early days, Langster said, “The major difference is that [at the Myeloma Center] I was walking into something that’s already established, a well-oiled machine.” With the Myeloma Center’s ever-advancing research and development of personalized therapies, she knew it was a place where she could make a difference.

Langster understands the complexities of an academic medical center and appreciates how important it is to make sure that the Myeloma Center’s service line matches up with the overall mission and strategies of UAMS. She sees herself as a bridge builder, a resource finder, and a process improver. She wants to make sure that “everything functions as effectively as possible.” With an emphasis on evidence-based practice and care pathway tools, Langster is committed to high-quality health services delivered with compassion. “Every patient should immediately feel welcome and safe,” she said.

It is Langster’s charge to facilitate a system that helps the Myeloma Center’s clinical staff do their jobs efficiently, while keeping the patient experience front and center. Her passion and expertise are well aligned with her role. As the Myeloma Center develops precision medicine approaches for personalized care, Langster is reinforcing the basic nursing attributes of compassion and skill to maintain the personal touch component that is integral to overall excellence. Cancer patients are “all in” and so is Langster