Thrive by IU Health

October 18, 2022

Nurse navigator helps patients through breast cancer journey

IU Health West Hospital

Nurse navigator helps patients through breast cancer journey

As the new nurse navigator for IU Health West’s Breast Surgical Oncology Department, Chelsie Haltom is helping patients navigate their care plan.

By Emma Avila, marketing associate,

Chelsie Haltom’s face lights up when she talks about helping her patients. She has been the clinical nurse navigator for IU Health West’s Breast Surgical Oncology Department for three months now, and she hit the ground running.

“All my days consist of patient interactions one way or another, whether that be in person in the clinic or via phone,” she explained. “In clinic, I am usually completing surgical teaching with patients and their family members. This helps them know what to expect preoperatively and postoperatively and allows time to answer any questions or concerns they may have. The more hands-on aspects of my role consist of helping the surgeon and physician assistant with any clinic procedures, removing drains postoperatively, and I am responsible for drawing labs for genetic testing. I also assist with phone triage for patients that call in with questions or concerns.”

Brook Myers knows firsthand how helpful it is to have someone like Haltom to answer questions.

While self-examining at home, Myers discovered a lump in her breast. Last month, she went in for a mammogram that ultimately led to a breast cancer diagnosis.

She was back in the hospital two weeks ago for a lumpectomy, a surgery to remove cancer from the breast. Haltom was there to help guide Myers before and after the procedure.

Brook Myers
Brook Myers recovers from a lumpectomy at IU Health West Hospital.

“She asked how I was feeling and if I needed anything or had any questions. That really resonated with me,” Myers said. “Having someone like Chelsie, who is able to bridge that gap between patient and doctor is so helpful.”

“I feel like the patients know they can call for any question and if I do not know the answer, I can help navigate them to the person who does have the answer,” Haltom added.

Since Haltom is focused specifically on breast surgical oncology, she works closely with nurse navigators in other departments to make sure her patients are taken care of throughout their entire journey.

“Typically, when patients are diagnosed with breast cancer, their first stop is a consult with the breast surgical oncology team to meet the surgeon. From there the patient will typically meet with both the Medical Oncology team and the Radiation Oncology team. So right out of the gate, these patients are faced with several appointments to juggle and it is a lot for them to keep track of. The Radiation Oncology team has nurse navigator, Sarah Dryer, and the Medical Oncology team also has a nurse coordinator, Jenn Miller. All three of us work closely together throughout the patient’s journey to make sure the patient gets everything they need, and in a seamless fashion,” she said.

West nurse navigators
Pictured from left: Sarah Dryer, Radiation Oncology Nurse Navigator; Chelsie Haltom, Breast Surgical Oncology Nurse Navigator; Jenn Miller, Medical Oncology Nurse Coordinator

Myers is experiencing that shift now. She recently found out that her best treatment option is chemotherapy.

“Chelsie followed up and told me I will be working with the other team now, but she told me if I ever have any questions, she will be there.”

With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, both Haltom and Myers want to help other women who may not know they have cancer.

“Trust your instincts. Know what is normal for you. If something doesn’t feel normal, when in doubt, have it checked,” Myers stressed.

“Early detection is key,” Haltom added. “Do your self-breast exams and get your mammograms at the recommended times. Try not to be afraid or embarrassed to talk to your providers about any issues you are having.”

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