January 2018
Oncology/Bone Marrow Transplant Unit
University of Colorado Hospital
United States




When I think about the incredible oncology nurses I work with and who could possibly stand out among this elite crew, there is one individual that immediately comes to mind. Rocco Miele started at UCHealth as a Graduate Nurse in 2016, and over these past 2 years, he has continued to impress me with his exceptional and unique patient care that truly goes beyond the bedside. In my charge role I frequently round on patients during their hospital stay and nearly every time I round, at least one patient or family member brings up Rocco and a memorable moment they shared together. I often hear that Rocco stays calm in the storm, that he has an eye for detail, and that he'll fight tooth and nail for a patient's needs.
Reflecting on the many times I've witnessed Rocco's unique qualities and amazing patient care, there is one day that truly stands out to me. It was just a normal day on the oncology unit and Rocco started his shift, seamlessly allowing me to spend my time assisting newer nurses on the floor. Around mid-morning Rocco came to me saying he was concerned for his patient as she seemed more lethargic than before. Rocco's remarkable critical thinking skills led him to hold this patient's morning Fragmin and he immediately informed the team of this new change in consciousness. The team acknowledged his concern and responded by ordering a routine head scan.
When the CT room was ready for the patient, Rocco was worried that waiting for transport would take too long so he decided to take the patient down himself with a CNA. About 10 minutes later I received an alarming phone call from Rocco stating he was paging a Stroke Alert from the CT room after the technician discovered a massive head bleed. I immediately rushed down to meet Rocco and within minutes, a swarm of medical staff flooded the room. With all our hospital's resources at the bedside, I was able to quickly arrange for a Neuro ICU room that was prepped and ready for intubation. It seemed like a blink of an eye before the patient was transferred to a higher level of care and safely intubated. In my experience as a charge nurse, this was by far the fastest and most efficient stroke transfer I had ever seen. Later that afternoon, an ICU nurse called Rocco to inform him that the patient was doing well and to congratulate him for single-handedly saving this patient's life. This one event can easily highlight Rocco's amazing skills but there are still so many other ways Rocco gives compassionate patient care behind the scenes.
Believe it or not, Rocco himself is a cancer survivor. His experience through treatment and overcoming this life-changing obstacle allows him to relate to patients in ways no other nurse can. It's inspiring to watch Rocco connect with his patients and go out of his way to make them feel at ease. For example, Rocco is known for bringing personal items from home, like books, to help patients pass the time. As an oncology nurse, I have learned over the years that it can be the simplest of acts that make the biggest imprint on a patient's experience.
The DAISY Award is meant to celebrate an "Extraordinary Nurse" and I can say that without a doubt, Rocco is just that. Even on Rocco's 5-year anniversary of being cancer free, his heart was too big to experience this moment alone.
Rocco was planning to come up to our unit after his outpatient appointment to ring "The Bell" that we typically use to celebrate patients' final treatment. While Rocco was in the clinic for this major milestone, he came across one of our patients who was newly cancer-free and on the road to recovery. Of course, in typical Rocco fashion, he convinced this patient to come back to our unit so they could ring the bell together. Rocco even persuaded another patient who was currently admitted and finishing their last cycle of chemotherapy to join in on this bell ringing celebration. A crowd gathered around the nurse's station and I don't think our staff has ever heard a bell ring more powerfully or so close to home. The 3 of them hugged, they laughed, and there was hardly a dry eye in the room.
I find it very unlikely that there is a nurse like myself that leaves work every day feeling like "I" had made a difference simply by working alongside an Extra-ordinary Nurse like Rocco. It is inspiring to watch a nurse like Rocco touch lives in such a meaningful way that it gives me hope for situations that I would never have otherwise. I am so lucky to work with such an amazing individual like Rocco and I feel very privileged to be a part of his legacy.