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Headshot of Tina Shaban
Tina Shaban, BSN, RN, OCN, who has worked at the Patient and Family Resource Center since 2002, recently retired as its director.

Tina Shaban, BSN, RN, OCN, recently retired from her longtime position as director of the North Carolina Cancer Hospital’s Mary Anne Long Patient and Family Resource Center. And while retirement has her setting her sights on new endeavors, she hasn’t forgotten the patients and families, friends and coworkers, and the people she’s helped over the years.

Originally from Pennsylvania, Shaban said she grew up in a time where women had fewer career options, and most found jobs as teachers or nurses. Fortunately, nursing was a perfect fit for her, and she began her career as a pediatric oncology nurse.

“I knew I wanted to work in pediatrics, and my first assignment was pediatric oncology. I fell in love with the children and their adaptability,” she said. “They were never angry at me for doing tortuous things to them. They accepted they had to persevere and continued to live life through a really daunting time.”

Shaban practiced at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and Texas Children’s Hospital, before she found herself at UNC, working on refreshing her nursing skills, and she saw the open position at the PFRC. “It was a unique opportunity. They didn’t have a nurse, and it seemed like a really perfect match for me.”

Shaban’s connection to pediatric oncology and experience with her father’s cancer gave her a good perspective on what patients and families needed on their cancer journey.

“My dad had been a patient on a clinical trial. I knew the rigors a family goes through when a member is going to treatment,” she said. “I took my nursing skills and personal experience to try and bring some things that would help other families.”

More than 20 years of helping patients and families

During her tenure at the PFRC, Shaban developed a broad range of programs, including body image consultation, integrative medicine, and caregiver support. She originated the Patient Assistance Fund to provide relief for patients experiencing financial challenges and was instrumental in bringing social workers and oncology dietitians to the care teams. For more than 20 years, through moves and renovations, and even a pandemic, Shaban remained committed to helping families, something she had in common with many in the health care and wider communities.

“Without volunteers and community partners we couldn’t have done any of this. We were a very bare bones team,” she said. “The most beautiful part of the story is just how many people from different walks of life joined together to make this happen. It’s pretty incredible.”

Shaban reflected on the ups and downs she experienced during her tenure, and said she learned trying to make things better is always a good idea. “If the thoughts and intentions are patient and family focused, it will have a positive impact, and advocating for that can make it a reality.”

Continuing to help others

She officially retired in December 2021, and she has been surprised by the effort it takes to settle into her retirement. “It’s hard for me to lie on the couch and watch Hallmark movies,” she joked. “I look forward to being able to spend time with my own family and friends. My heart is on the lookout for the next big adventure.”

For Shaban, the PFRC will always have a place in her heart and memories, and she knows that there will always be someone in need that she can help. She hasn’t set her sights on any one cause yet, but said she’ll know when it’s time to step up again and lend her skills and talents to helping others.

“The Patient and Family Resource Center is truly an incredible place. Our team’s work and support is a calling, and we understand the diverse needs that our families experience and we creatively and purposefully seek avenues of support. We have never been afraid to care openly, and with that comes human connection,” she said. “It was an honor and privilege to serve in a position for almost 20 years that challenged me daily to bring nothing less than my very best.”