Advice From the Nurse Navigator

Karen Aaron, RN, BSN, OCN, BNCN

Communication with your health care team is an important link to good care, but navigating the complex health care system is not an easy task. Here are some pointers to help you be your own advocate and gain control of this often complex process.

Prepare for your appointments:
Write down your questions. It is not unusual to forget your questions once you are in the appointment.
Bring a friend or loved one with you to your appointment.  There’s a lot to absorb and a second set of ears can help you remember.
Bring a list of any new or bothersome symptoms. Your doctor wants to know about them.

Be involved in your appointments:
Your care team is here to help you. Learn the best way to work together with them.
Take notes. If there are terms you are unfamiliar with ask what they mean and how they are spelled.
Ask why a test is being ordered.
Bring those lists of questions and symptoms and be direct about asking!

Stay organized:
Keep a binder for your notes, brochures and appointment schedules.
Keep a list of your medications and what they are for.
Get to know your health care team. Take their business cards so you remember their names and have easy access to their contact information

Gain knowledge:
Ask for a second opinion.
Collect information from your care providers, lab reports, imaging reports and discs with imaging.
Go to reliable information sources.  Forums are often not helpful.
Ask if you have a nurse navigator available to you or a main point of contact who can offer guidance, insight into your care and answers to your questions.
Learn the best way to contact your Health Care Team.

Download a printable version of this checklist.

Karen Aaron, RN, BSN, OCN, BNCN is the Nurse Navigator at Gene Upshaw Memorial Tahoe Forest Cancer Center. She can be reached at 530-582-6450.

Read more about Karen Aaron, RN, BSN, OCN, BNCN.

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