Behind the Scenes: The Mary Bird Perkins Team Adapts to Changes for Added Patient Protection During Pandemic

As a dietician at Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center for 18 years, Vadel Shivers spends her days helping patients maintain their nutrition to maintain wellness and strength while undergoing cancer treatments. Throughout her career, she describes experiencing seasons of peaks and valleys in patient volumes. For the past year, however, the lulls have been few and far between.

A pandemic-filled 2020 that has languished into 2021 has brought concerns about health and COVID-19 to the limelight as the pandemic has meandered over the past year.

Her workload increased indefinitely as patients became more aware of the impacts of nutrition to combat illness. “I used to spend 30 to 45 minutes with a patient,” said Shivers. “Now I might spend an hour and a half talking to them and answering their questions.”

COVID-19 Impacts Everyone

Shivers encourages her patients to be mindful of what they put into their bodies. She also recommends adding a variety of fruits and vegetables into their diets to help ensure a variety of nutrients. She stressed that there are no real triggers as to who will experience complications with COVID-19, so maintaining wellness, especially during cancer treatment is important.

Shivers has seen many friends lose relatives to COVID-19. In January 2021, her aunt died unexpectedly after being diagnosed with the disease. “It hits home,” she said. “Especially when someone in your family passes away. She was generally healthy without major issues.”

COVID-19 Vaccination Provides Added Protection

When Shivers became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in December 2020 she was not immediately sold on the idea. “I was hesitant,” she said. “I made a decision once I had more information about it.”

Shivers researched the vaccine on her own and said her patients were the main reason she chose to be vaccinated. “It’s my duty to help patients through treatment without unnecessary complications,” Shivers said. “I’m in front of patients daily, and I don’t want to be a risk to others or be at risk myself.”

Shivers also said she wanted to be an example for others and share her vaccination experience. She and her colleagues who have been vaccinated feel confident they have done all they can to protect themselves and others. She encourages others to research and find out more, saying the information is out there.

“A lot of people want to get back to being with family and friends,” Shivers said. “The vaccine plays a part in that.”