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Supporting patients through their cancer journey as a nurse navigator

“You have cancer.”

Such a small sentence can be so incredibly life-changing.

The word “cancer” sparks in us a reaction of both fear and stress. The diagnosis of cancer begins a journey that can be overwhelming, frightening and confusing.

In a single sentence, a person’s life can be brought to a screeching halt. Suddenly, a new course has been charted in an unfamiliar language of medical terms and treatments options.

The journey of cancer treatment is a path that should never be walked alone.

As a nurse navigator, it is my privilege to walk this pathway with my patients to offer comfort and assistance. During the difficult times, I offer quiet support or simply hold a hand. I also embrace moments of victory and share in celebration of overcoming obstacles or receiving good news. My nurse’s bag comes equipped with such tools as education, emotional support, support services and plenty of hugs.

My role as an oncology nurse navigator is one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences of my nursing career. As a nurse navigator, I assist patients and their families in getting connected with physicians and hospital staff, community services and support groups.

By understanding each person’s unique concerns and challenges I am better able to meet each one at their individual points of need and introduce them to our dedicated team of specialists and numerous oncology programs that can best meet that need.

Supporting patients and loved ones

Family and friends are such an important part of a patient’s support during cancer treatment. Baylor Scott & White Oncology Nurse Navigation offers education and support not only to the patient facing cancer treatment but to their loved ones as well. Our navigation program embraces the entire family and offers support programs, educational classes and orientations prior to hospitalization.

“Explore."

Patients may meet with the nurse navigator before their hospital stay. Together we identify each person’s greatest concerns, most pressing questions or family needs.

Patients receive educational materials based on their specific cancer diagnosis. Patients and families also have the opportunity to take a personal tour of our facility and meet our dedicated staff who will care for them during their stay.

Upon a patient’s arrival at our hospital, my role continues as a nurse navigator through visits during their hospital stay and by offering support. I assist in connecting patients with hospital staff and programs that may assist them in their journey.

My contact with our patients and family does not end upon discharge from our hospital. All patients in my care have my phone number and know that I am always available. After discharge, I follow up with patients by phone or card and assist them as they continue on their pathway of treatment.

My sincere hope is to one day live in a world where a no one hears the life-changing sentence, “You have cancer”.

Until that day, I and my fellow oncology nurse navigators will continue to walk this pathway with our patients and strive to make this journey simpler for those in need.

This blog post was contributed by Betsy Booth, RN and Nurse Navigator at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Plano.

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Supporting patients through their cancer journey as a nurse navigator