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Hearing a cancer diagnosis can bring on a flood of conflicting emotions. Shock, numbness, anger and confusion about your next steps. There are more than 14 million new diagnoses each year, and many patients are unsure about what to do - questions can range from how to break the news at home to what to expect during treatment.
At MedStar Georgetown Cancer Institute, nurse navigators are the healthcare providers who help with those questions and support patients at every step of their cancer journey. Helping patients see the big picture and keeping track of the small details is also an essential part of the role.
Why Are Nurse Navigators Crucial to Quality Care?
When you receive a cancer diagnosis, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by your options. Surgery, medications, radiation, and other treatment options may be presented to you. A nurse navigator can help you understand your choices and provide detailed information about the behavior of a specific cancer. By understanding cancer staging and how treatment works, you can make more informed decisions about your treatment.
Every cancer treatment regimen should be tailored to fit the individual; nurse navigators explain and address that necessity. We can even provide translation services to help eliminate any language barrier, should the need arise. And if making appointments is tough, transportation services might be available. Many secondary services can help you get the most out of every appointment.
During your first visit with your cancer treatment team, you get a lot of information - so much so, that it may be easy miss details, and you may have questions. That's where a nurse navigator comes in; they can help you figure out the best resource for any questions and offer suggestions about what to ask. In fact, part of the new patient process as a nurse navigator involves providing patients with valuable information, as well as potential questions to ask.
That is only the beginning of your journey, however. You may not have a lot of knowledge about cancer or what happens after treatment. Long-term surveillance is a big part of optimizing function and longevity, as well as monitoring risk of cancer recurrence. Helping you understand what to report and the support that is available at the end of treatment is a rewarding part of the role.
Nurse Navigator's Network
Navigators do more than answer questions and provide information; they also assist you in ensuring your critical records and information is available for the physician’s review prior to discussing your treatment plan. For example, you may not know what documents are most critical for a specific appointment, but a nurse navigator can help you with the scheduling and documentation needed to keep quality of care high and coordinated across the team supporting you.
As a patient resource, nurse navigators are there to traverse all disciplines and provide knowledge from a perspective inside the medical center. They help guide and shape your journey so you can make treatment decisions with all the information you need readily available.