A nurse navigator is someone who can explain treatments, lab tests, make appointment arrangements and tell you what you can expect before a surgery. They guide you throughout the treatment process and interact with your entire medical team, from oncologist, radiologist to nutritionist.
There are few words can be more devastating than these three, “you have cancer.” It is just the start of a rollercoaster of emotions and physical changes. The world of oncology, including treatment, testing, surgery, radiation and recovery can be a very overwhelming and confusing place.
Enter the nurse navigator, a nurse specially trained to guide you through this ordeal, one that will be with you from diagnosis to recovery.
Presently, at the Billings Clinic in Billings, Montana, nine nurse navigators are working in various cancer specialties. The navigator position was originally created to help breast cancer patients and since October of this year has expanded to other areas, including a navigator to deal specifically with survivors. “It has improved those outcomes significantly for those patients,” says Mary Lou Iverson, breast cancer navigator.
While your medical team will provide you with treatment options, nurse navigators help you understand what’s happening to you and assist you in regaining a feeling of control when it seems you have none. They also can help with non-medical aspects of care, spiritual, exercise programs or even housekeeping services.
Modern medicine and advanced cancer treatments have improved survival rates for many forms of cancer. It is common knowledge that healing involves more than just treating the disease. In 2007, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies reports, “supporting a patient’s psychological and social needs should be an integral part of quality cancer care.”
Nurse navigators are professionals in a unique position to provide just this service, from start to finish.