BLOOMINGTON, IND. – In 2008, Bloomington Hospital treated 164 people with breast cancer; the most common cancer treated at the hospital that year. Because each of these 164 individuals affected by breast cancer is different, each with a unique situation, Bloomington Hospital’s Olcott Center for Cancer Education provides a nurse navigator program.
Janice Ross, RN, manager of the Olcott Center, explained that this program gives patients a navigator who can meet with them and their family in order to help them sort through their health care needs.
She said that the Nurse Navigator “is a patient’s guide; assisting them through the cancer journey from diagnosis until the patient no longer requests or requires their assistance. The navigator provides patient support, education, and facilitates access to vital resources and promotes compliance. Navigators work as a liaison with the patient and physicians, other support departments and provide community outreach programs for patients and families.”
To qualify to be a Nurse Navigator, the nurse needs to be a registered nurse (RN), have three years of oncology experience, and oncology certification. At this time, the two Nurse Navigators at Bloomington Hospital are Ross and Terri Acton, RN, BSN, MS, CBPN-IC.
Ross explains that the nurse navigation process begins with a referral from the patient’s physician or by the patient or family calling the Olcott Center. Ross and Acton also travel to the Southern Indiana Radiological Associates (SIRA) office to meet with women just hearing their diagnosis.
“Every woman diagnosed with cancer is offered to see one of us at the time she learns she has cancer. To take advantage of the nurse navigator program, you do not need a physician’s referral. We want this program to be easily available to anyone in our region with breast cancer who would like our assistance,” she says.
Patients and their families then make an appointment with Ross or Acton, so they can ask questions, learn more about their cancer and the treatments and services available to them. The Nurse Navigators will meet inpatients at the hospital if needed or in the Olcott Center’s office.
In addition during the appointment, the nurse will work with the patient and family on a needs assessment that covers financial, emotional, transportation and any other potential needs the patient may have. Based on this assessment, the Nurse Navigators can help direct the patient and their family to community and support services from which they could benefit.
“After we have the initial appointment with the patient and her or his family, we follow up with a phone call the following week to answer any questions and make sure that they know they can come back and see us or call any time,” Ross says. “We also contact them via phone or mail every three months for the following year to check in, let them know we’re thinking about them, and see if we can be of any assistance.”
In addition to providing this emotional and educational support, the Nurse Navigators can assist with making appointments and assuring the patient has their films and documents to be prepared for any doctor appointments. The Nurse Navigators have relationships with the hospital staff, physician offices, as well as community resources, to promote the continuity of care for the patient.
“Cancer is a scary and uncertain time. We want our clients and their families to know that they don’t have to go through this process alone,” says Ross. “We’re there to provide education and support, and help them navigate through the treatment and recovery process. This is the right thing to do for our patients and we’re happy to be able to provide this service.”
Thanks to the support of the Bloomington Hospital Foundation and the community, all services, including the nurse navigation program, are free. To learn more about the Olcott Center, please visit bloomingtonhospital.org/cancer or call 812.353.HOPE.
Bloomington Hospital, a Clarian Health Partner, has been innovative in providing quality care to south central Indiana communities for more than a century. Offering a comprehensive continuum of care, Bloomington Hospital is a not-for-profit organization and has a patient base of 413,000 in 10 counties (Brown, Daviess, Greene, Jackson, Lawrence, Martin, Monroe, Orange, Owen and Washington). Bloomington Hospital currently operates two hospital campuses (Bloomington and Orange County) with regional specialty offerings for Heart and Vascular, Behavioral Health, Cancer, Women and Children, Neurology and Orthopedic services. As a leading hospital in Indiana, Bloomington Hospital enhances health by advancing the art and science of medicine through the use of new technologies, procedures and care.