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Predicting Breast Cancer Risk

How Nurse Navigators Improve Breast Cancer Care

Author: Laura Constantine, RN

nurse navigator

Since 2009, the Women’s Center at Washington Hospital has been identified as a center for excellence in the treatment of breast cancer by the American College of Surgeons’ National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC). While that may sound like just another fancy designation, what it really means is that our patients are at the center of everything we do. And, for many of those we treat, the Patient First Ethic really shines through in our Nurse Navigators.

When women are diagnosed with breast cancer, it’s easy to feel a loss of control over their bodies, circumstances, and life. Nurse Navigators help them reclaim some of their power. Nurse Navigators are specially-trained oncology nurses. From understanding an abnormal mammogram to scheduling a biopsy, and all the way through treatment and remission, we work one-on-one with patients to help them throughout their breast cancer journey. And in the process, we laugh together, cry together and find hope in this generally chaotic and overwhelming time.

Here are just some of the ways the Nurse Navigators at Washington Hospital help improve breast cancer care.

We guide patients through the complex cancer care system

Navigating the healthcare system can be a complex and frustrating task, and cancer care is no exception. Once a breast cancer diagnosis is made, time is of the essence. There are a lot of moving parts and pieces that have to fall into place in order for a patient to receive the right treatment as quickly as possible. As a Nurse Navigator, my job is to make this process as smooth and seamless as possible. Not only do I help facilitate access to high-quality care and advanced diagnostics, I have to anticipate and avoid any functional or institutional obstacles to care like transportation, finance or scheduling conflicts.

We empower them to make informed treatment decisions

Receiving a breast cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming on many levels. While a patient may be acutely aware that their situation is dire, understanding what options they have – or that they have options at all – may not be as apparent. That’s why patient education is a huge component of what Nurse Navigators do. From helping patients understand their diagnoses to setting expectations for each step of the process, an informed patient is better able to advocate for themselves and their care.

We expedite the process as much as possible

As internal advocates for our patients’ care, we can schedule the appointments, process paperwork, and help expedite the process towards the next step in their care.

We help patients find the resources they need

You have an appointment with a specialist but no way to get there? Call your Nurse Navigator. You’re unsure how you’re going to be able to afford treatment on top of your existing bills? Call your Nurse Navigator. You’re struggling with the process and need mental or spiritual support? Call your Nurse Navigator. You want to explore reconstruction surgery or prosthetics? Call your Nurse Navigator. From finding culturally appropriate supportive care to setting up an appointment with a registered dietitian, we’re ready to help patients throughout their cancer journey.

We let them know they’re not alone

Not every nurse is fit for oncology, and not every oncology nurse is cut out to be a Nurse Navigator. We do this job because we love it. Our patients are going through some of the most emotionally, physically and spiritually trying times of their lives. We want to support them in whatever way they need us to, whether that means letting them cry it out in our office, going with them to appointments, or something as simple as inviting them to a picnic at a park because they’d never done that before.

Because, if I, or any of my fellow Nurse Navigators, have anything to say about it, cancer isn’t winning – life is.

To learn more about the Women’s Center, visit the Washington Hospital website. Or, call a Washington Hospital Nurse Navigator at 510.818.7356.

Posted October, 2019