Getting a breast cancer diagnosis is overwhelming. Patients often have questions about their diagnosis, what it means and when they should schedule appointments to get going with treatment. There is a lot of uncertainty and wondering, what is next?
That is where breast cancer nurse navigators step in. Patients are typically introduced to us after getting results from a biopsy. Nurse navigators take care of everything: scheduling appointments, providing education and support and answering questions. We are with patients every step of the way – through surgery, plastic surgery, chemotherapy and radiation and survivorship.
Here are the top four ways breast cancer nurse navigators support patients through their journey:
- Education: After the initial surgical consultation, we provide every patient with our nationally recognized breast cancer treatment handbook. Within the handbook, there are sections that cover physiology, surgical options, plastic surgery, chemotherapy, what to expect, recovery and survivorship. For patients having a breast mastectomy, we offer one-hour classes to help them learn what to expect leading up to surgery and how to move forward after it. We also provide individualized education about bras and wigs as well as information about support groups.
- Emotional Support: Edward-Elmhurst Health’s breast cancer support group meets once per month. We can also direct patients to support groups around Chicagoland if they prefer going elsewhere. For patients who prefer one-on-one support, we refer them to our licensed clinical social worker. Nurse navigators are another resource. We answer questions and if we don’t know an answer, we’ll find it for patients.
- Care Coordination: One of the most important things nurse navigators do for patients is take the burden off them by making all their appointments. Patients do not need to call anyone – we will get everything set up. Patients tell us that one of the biggest stressors they have is not knowing who to call and when. We tell them don’t worry; we’ve got this for you. We support the patient through their journey.
- Patient Advocate: We keep a list of all our patients and the things they need at the different points during their journey. We also research relevant topics for our patients, such as mastectomy bras or community events. We want to provide helpful information and resources to them.
Every week, Edward-Elmhurst breast cancer nurse navigators have a multidisciplinary conference with surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists and other providers to go through every patient’s chart. As nurse navigators, it is good for us to hear everyone’s perspective on each patient’s treatment and also to learn more about what our patients need. We make sure everyone agrees on what is the best plan for each patient.
Our patients tell us breast cancer care at Edward-Elmhurst Health is seamless. We genuinely care about all our patients and want to make things easier for them so they can focus on feeling better.