Published: Nov. 30, 2010
Updated: Nov. 30, 2010
Regardless of a person's age, gender, income, or social standing, a cancer diagnosis elicits complicated feelings in a way few of life's curveballs can match.
Vulnerable is the word that comes to mind, though it doesn't fully capture the physical and emotional toll of cancer. Of course, this is the time when questions big and small must be answered -- "which doctor is right for me, what will this treatment do, how am I going to pay, when and where is my next appointment?"
These are the exact questions that Brenda Wilcox, RN, a certified oncology nurse, and Julie McQueen, a certified health education specialist, help to answer in their role as patient navigators at Duke Raleigh Cancer Center. They assist cancer patients in obtaining valuable resources and education for coping with their cancer diagnosis, and also serve as advocates by empowering their patients to make informed decisions about their care.
"We operate as the common thread that runs through the entire cancer journey -- to help tie together and streamline the comprehensive plan of care delivered to the patient and their loved ones," says Wilcox.
Patient navigators provide this support lifeline by working through barriers that might otherwise impact the patient's ability to receive quality care: medication and home health needs, finances and insurance plans, language translation and cultural sensitivities, and transportation limitations, among others.
This level of personalized care has been so well received that Duke Raleigh Hospital also offers a patient navigator within the Duke Raleigh Orthopaedic and Spine Center. Patrick Krejci, RN, MSN, orthopaedic patient navigator, guides every orthopaedic surgical patient through their care and informs them about each step of their treatment.
"This is accomplished in many ways, including facilitating multi-disciplinary pre-op education, maintaining constant communication with the patient and family throughout the hospital stay, monitoring patient satisfaction data, and utilizing service recovery, if necessary," says Krejci.
"Our overall mission is to ensure that the patient and family have a good surgical experience with positive patient outcomes."