Hilary Tingley discovered a passion for caregiving when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“When my mom was sick, I always wanted to know more and be more helpful — I became her caregiver,” Tingley says.
After her mother finished treatment at their home in Florida, she moved to Chicago and eventually pursued a master’s degree in nursing at DePaul University.
“That’s when I fell in love with nursing,” she says. “It was an incredible experience to be able to see the things that I did and learn about different procedures.”
After graduating, Tingley joined the RUSH Cancer Center as a nurse navigator in breast oncology in 2019.
Focusing on patients first
Tingley helps guide patients through every step of their care — from diagnosis to recovery.
“When patients first hear the words ‘You have cancer,’ they are very anxious,” she says. “It’s the difference between the first conversation that I have with them and that last conversation — when they're relieved to be on the other side of care — that’s really satisfying.”
Tingley is grateful for her colleagues at the RUSH Cancer Center, where she says, “community stands out the most.”
“The doctors care a lot about their nurses and want to hear our feedback about how to make things run smoother,” Tingley says. “They are very supportive of the whole group involved in patient care — we are cohesive team.”
A passion project that led to change
While working full time, Tingley is also pursuing a doctorate in nursing and family medicine at RUSH University.
Through school, Tingley helped to create the social determinants of health screening tool at RUSH. It connects lower-income patients with breast cancer to programs that address issues that can interfere with pursuing treatment, including food insecurity, transportation and utility bills.
With Tingley’s help, patients are called and screened before their appointment, setting them up with resources and support at the beginning of their care. In some cases, patients are also connected with social workers, who are the main source of support and play a large role in expediting patient care, Tingley adds.
“With the changes led by Hilary, patients are receiving treatment faster,” says Andrea Madrigrano, MD, a RUSH breast surgeon and mentor to Tingley. “We’re grateful for Hilary and her work.”
‘It’s uplifting to be recognized’
For her dedication to nursing in breast cancer care, Tingley was selected as the recipient of the Certified Breast Care Nurse of the Year Award.
“I’ve worked with Hilary for over five years, and her compassion, leadership, communication and organizational skills make her an invaluable asset to our breast team and patients,” says RUSH breast cancer coordinator Madeline McIntosh, RN.
Tingley says she was surprised and honored to win the national award.
“It makes me feel good to be recognized for what I’ve done so far. It’s really uplifting,” she says. “I’m thankful for my colleagues and mentors for their support. And I look forward to helping more patients by connecting them with resources through our social determinants of health screening.”
To learn more about breast cancer care at RUSH, visit rush.edu/breast-cancer-care.