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Spotlight: Nurse Practitioner Lexi Maciej is inspired by patients

Nurse Practitioner Lexi Maciej, who has 15 years of experience in cancer care, says her patients are a source of inspiration.
Nurse Practitioner Lexi Maciej, who helps treat children and young adults with cancer, says she is continually inspired and humbled by the patients she serves.
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Nurse Practitioner Lexi Maciej, who helps treat children and young adults with cancer, says she is continually inspired and humbled by the patients she serves.

Maciej is a pediatric nurse practitioner with University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital. She sees patients at Journey Clinic – Center for Children with Cancer and Blood Disorders and University of Minnesota Health Maple Grove Clinics. We spoke with Maciej recently to find out what she does, why loves her job and what makes pediatric hematology/oncology so special.

Describe your role as a pediatric hematology/oncology nurse practitioner. What distinguishes our cancer care from other cancer treatment services in the region?
My special interests include leukemia, lymphoma, a blood disorder called Immune Thrombocytopenia (ITP), palliative care and adolescent health. The majority of my time is devoted to patient care in the Journey Clinic – Center for Children with Cancer and Blood Disorders, University of Minnesota Health Maple Grove Clinics and at an outreach site in Rapid City, S.D. 

Our program is innovative in our approach to enhance patient care. For instance, our comprehensive leukemia and lymphoma program brings together a large team of providers from different specialties to carefully assess patients, create treatment plans and watch for potential treatment-related side effects in a single visit. Essentially, we bring all of the specialists to the patient, instead of having the patient make several separate appointments on different days, at different locations. This special focus not only improves the patient’s experience, but results in earlier identification and intervention of health concerns with the goal of improving quality of life and minimizing late effects.

Why are you passionate about your position?
It is so exciting to see the progress we are making in treating pediatric cancers and blood disorders. Patient outcomes are improving; at the same time we are able to mitigate some of the late effects from cancer and treatment. I love that I have expertise in my role and that my autonomy is encouraged and supported. But really, at the end of the day, it is my patients and their families that keep my passion alive. I feel fortunate to have the time to be present with my patients on their journey.

You mentioned your expertise in the role. How long have you been with University of Minnesota Cancer Care?
I have been in the division of pediatric hematology and oncology for the past 15 years, and 10 years in my current role. This position continues to excite and challenge me every day. I am inspired by the patients I work with and really can't imagine doing anything else! 

What is one of your favorite memories from your work?
It is nearly impossible to tease out a single memory. Every patient experience is so valuable and unique. The most rewarding part of my work is seeing patients achieve a goal they have set for themselves. Whether it is learning to take pills, the opportunity to return to an activity they love, more quality time with family and friends, creating a legacy or completing treatment. I am lucky to witness inspiring events every day! The way kids and young adults with cancer live and thrive is humbling. It should be a reminder to all of us to embrace each day and make it the best we can.

What do you love about the University of Minnesota Health community?
Being a part of the pediatric hematology/oncology community is fantastic. Our entire team is devoted to making the best possible experience for patients and families. The providers I work with are thoughtful, dedicated and passionate about what they do. That spirit is contagious and keeps us all striving to do better. We also try to keep our sense of humor; sometimes this work can be tough and a hearty laugh is good for the soul!

Tell us one surprising thing about yourself.
My family loves to foster puppies and kittens. We have fostered about 100 animals in the past few years. It is a great way to bond as a family and is definitely therapeutic. We don't have a permanent houseful of pets yet, but my kids are begging. We'll see how long I can hold out!

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