A clinical nurse in P8, Gwen Leever cares for our neurosurgical and rehabilitation patients and their family members. When she’s not at work, Leever continues to care for others. She and her dog, Riley, volunteer with a pet therapy program and help bring comfort to victims of natural disasters.
Gwen Leever says she can’t put her finger on exactly why she chose to become a nurse, but that she always knew she wanted to be one.
“I was always the ‘caretaker’ type,” she admits. “The decision just happened naturally.”
For the way that she cares for our patients and their families, Leever is receiving the February Heart of MD Anderson Outstanding Employee Award.
A clinical nurse on P8, Leever cares for our neurosurgical and rehabilitation patients. She also makes it a point to be there for our patients’ family members.
As someone who has been a caregiver not only to our patients but also to her own family members – her husband, father and father-in-law passed away due to the disease – Leever understands first-hand the needs of a patient’s loved ones.
“She understands what our patients’ family members are going through and knows what they need to truly feel cared for,” says Mercy Joseph, a nurse manager in P8. “No matter the day or what’s going on, you can see compassion on her face and hear it in how she speaks.”
Leever continues to provide care to people when she’s outside of MD Anderson.
After losing her husband to cancer, Leever found comfort in a four-legged mutt named Riley. Inspired by her grandson’s experience with a therapy dog, Leever and Riley began volunteering with a pet therapy program.
Together, they visit nursing home residents and participate in local literacy programs for children who struggle with reading. Children take turns reading stories to Riley, which increases their confidence in and generates excitement about reading. After completing advanced crisis intervention training, Leever now takes Riley to visit victims of natural disasters. Most recently, Riley helped comfort victims of the May and October 2015 Texas floods while they stayed in shelters.
“I feel like I’m giving back to the community, and I have fun doing it,” Leever says. “Riley helps them take their minds off of what’s going on.”
Leever helps our patients in a similar way, too. You often can find Leever dancing and singing to help our patients take their minds off of their cancer for a few minutes each day.
“She has a great sense of humor,” says Gary Green, a clinical charge nurse on P8. “She brings joy and laughter to wherever she is.”
Eron Wahid, a clinical nurse leader in P8, appreciates how Leever’s sense of humor helps improve the unit’s morale.
“Gwen takes her job very seriously, but she also can get people to have fun, too,” Wahid says.
Leever knows that anything she can do to help her co-workers will ultimately help our patients have a better experience.
After 22 years of caring for our patients, Leever says that MD Anderson feels like her “home away from home” and that our patients are like her family.
“I may not know why I got into nursing, but I know that it’s where I belong,” she says. “It’s been a perfect fit from the beginning.”