Specialized Nurses Help Breast Cancer Patients Navigate Treatment
Oct 10, 2022 Amy Paturel
Imagine you wake up one morning in a completely foreign place. You don’t understand the language, customs or geography. That can be challenging. Now imagine that you’re also facing a life-changing diagnosis like breast cancer.
"Learning you have breast cancer can be overwhelming," says Doyoun Kim, a nurse in the Nurse Navigator Program at Cedars-Sinai. "You may be scared, confused and unsure where to start."
"Nurse navigators proactively work for patients, guiding them through each leg of their breast cancer journey, from diagnosis through survivorship."
That’s where nurse navigators come in. Their role is to take your hand and guide you through the process so you understand the facts of your diagnosis and treatment.
What is a nurse navigator?
When you receive a breast cancer diagnosis, a dedicated nurse navigator takes on your case, clearing a path for you to access the most comprehensive breast cancer care available.
"Our job as nurse navigators is to coordinate care and act as a bridge between patients and doctors," says Doyoun. "Our patients have a direct number to reach us so we can address any of their breast cancer care needs—almost like a one-stop concierge service."
From coordinating appointments and explaining treatments to connecting you to resources for physical therapy and fertility planning, nurse navigators are on your case 24/7 to get you the support you need.
What do nurse navigators do?
Nurse navigators put the patient at the center of care. As such, these professionals play several roles in the breast cancer care arena, including:
- Facilitator: Breast cancer patients often require a full suite of services, such as laboratory tests, imaging and procedures. Nurse navigators coordinate patients’ needs behind the scenes to ensure they receive seamless care.
- Educator: Nurse navigators educate patients about treatments, prescriptions and side effects, and they stay up to date on the latest research findings so they can translate scientific data into actionable information for patients.
- Messenger: Nurse navigators not only relay messages between doctors and patients, but they also refer patients to outside professionals and arrange for a transfer of records to other providers.
- Supporter: During any breast cancer journey, the terrain can get rocky. During these moments, nurse navigators help triage patients to supportive services. Whether you’re seeking a psychology referral to address the emotional considerations of cancer or a social worker referral to connect you to financial assistance, a nurse navigator can support those efforts.
How do nurse navigators work with patients?
In addition to guiding patients through treatment, nurse navigators provide reassurance, education and encouragement—not only to patients, but also to their family members.
They also help remove barriers to accessing care, address financial concerns, and ensure patients receive supportive care resources, such as nutrition, physical and occupational therapy, prostheses, and relaxation tools.
"Our goal is to establish a bond with our patients so they feel more comfortable and supported," says Doyoun. "It’s not just a title. Nurse navigators proactively work for patients, guiding them through each leg of their breast cancer journey from diagnosis through survivorship."