As a Nurse Navigator, my goal is to assistwith a patientâ€™s overwhelming process of a cancer diagnosis, to help coordinate their care and be a point person so they can receive the best care possible. Many patients are unfamiliar with the healthcare system and donâ€™t know what to do next, or who to go to. As a Nurse Navigator, I see the whole picture of treatment, and educate the patient from the beginning about what to expect. Cancer can make patients feel out of control, so knowing whatâ€™s going to happen can relieve some of that stress.
When a patient gets the diagnosis from a primary care provider and is referred to the Cancer Center, I contact the patient and take a multi-disciplinary approach to scheduling all the appointments with the surgeon, medical oncologist and radiation oncologist, as needed.
Additional tests may be required in order to determine how best to treat each patientâ€™s specific cancer, so not all answers may be available at the first appointment. I advocate for the patient, making sure he or she gets in as early as possible for the tests, help with referral consultation appointments, and make recommendations for additional help.
A Nurse Navigatorâ€™s objective is to identify barriers to care and get through them. That may mean enlisting the help of others for transportation, providing education about the health care system, or seeking financial advice. I draw on my past nursing experiences in oncology, medical surgery, home health and even pediatrics to smooth the patientâ€™s path from diagnosis to survivorship.
Karen Aaron, RN, BSN, OCN, CN, BN, has worked at Tahoe Forest Health System for over 30 years. On a personal note, she enjoys training her young palomino quarter horse, Sunshine. She says itâ€™s just like oncologyâ€”itâ€™s all about the relationship.