How Nurse Navigators Contribute to Personalized Cancer Care

With no family history of breast cancer, Pam Arnold never imagined she’d be a survivor at 66. After doing her own monthly exam, she felt a lump and the diagnosis was breast cancer.

“The cancer was a surprise to me. It does not run on either side of my family,” Pam says. She had missed three years of mammograms and now is an advocate for regular screenings.

Facing the chaos of her diagnosis, Arnold took advantage of the services offered with ProMedica Monroe Regional Hospital’s breast cancer nurse navigator, Debbie Osentoski, RN. Debbi’s work had a big impact on Arnold’s experience. In fact, research suggests that nurse navigators improve patient outcomes in cancer care.

Personalized support

Debbie says that nurse navigators provide benefits to the patient as well as the institution and doctors. She notes, “Breast cancer can be overwhelming. Patients and families have many questions about treatment options, schedules, even insurance coverage. As the nurse navigator, I offer personalized support throughout treatment.”

According to the oncology and breast care-certified RN, part of being a breast cancer nurse navigator includes providing patient education and emotional support. “It’s a lot of in-depth teaching and meeting the patient at their educational and emotional level. I provide each patient with a kit of educational materials from the American Cancer Society, a Pink Survivor book and a resource booklet specific to Monroe Regional Hospital to help them feel comfortable,” Debbie explains.

A portion of Debbie‘s time is spent attending patients’ key doctor appointments, as she did with Pam. “Debbie was at every appointment with me,” Pam says. “She always came in the room, asked me how I was doing and took notes. I got brain fog a lot. Sometimes she’d stay longer than she had to just to listen to what the doctor said to me.”

Patient advocacy

Debbie also does a lot of behind-the-scenes work, advocating for timely appointments, coordinating Tumor Board multidisciplinary discussions, providing surgical camisoles and survivorship care packets, and submitting key tests.

“Anticipating needs and preparing the patient for what is next in the patient’s treatment plan results in efficient care with a high patient satisfaction,” she explains. “We are a team here. The doctors are phenomenal and we work together to coordinate all aspects of the patient journey: surgery, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, and radiation therapy.”

“We are a team here…we work together to coordinate all aspects of the patient journey: surgery, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, and radiation therapy.”

Pam stresses to cancer patients that they can’t go through their journey alone. “There’s too much to remember, too many appointments and diagnoses, you almost need a navigator to get through.”

Although Debbie plays a big role in her patients’ lives, they also play a big role in hers. She says, “The patients I work with are so inspiring, to see them evolve from being so nervous and totally stunned to empowered and taking control and making decisions. They get strong all the way through and are so delightful to work with.”

Click here for more information on ProMedica Breast Care.