It wasn’t that long ago that patients with questions or concerns related to their breast health would rely heavily on their family and their own research to compliment what their doctor was telling them about an abnormal mammogram or other breast concerns.
When faced with a possible breast cancer diagnosis, women’s heads fill immediately with questions and concerns or frightful statistics they find when surfing the web. I have witnessed women whose minds were going 100 miles per hour. It’s these women who have found it nice to have someone else “be in charge” and guide them through this overwhelming process.
My role as a breast navigator is to try to pave the path for a woman who have breast health concerns. I help with referrals and scheduling appointments. I also work with our medical team to try to help women understand what their diagnosis really means. And, despite the fact that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime, there is some good news—98% of women will survive if their breast cancer is found early. More woman are getting regular mammograms, cancer is being detected earlier and breast navigation is gaining in popularity because it fills so many gaps in the current American health care system.
The original concept of patient navigation was pioneered in 1990 by Harold P. Freeman, MD, a surgical oncologist at Harlem Hospital, for the purpose of eliminating barriers to timely cancer screening, diagnosis, treatment and supportive care. Since Dr. Freeman’s groundbreaking work in Harlem, the concept of navigation or advocacy has grown far beyond cancer and now covers almost anything being done to help patients and families find their way through the maze of our health care system.
The role of the Breast Health Navigator has evolved to meet the changing demands of breast health care. The complexity of breast health treatment and the growing demand for out-patient services requires a trained nurse case manager with the ability to increase patient outcomes and patient satisfaction while containing costs. The Breast Health Navigator serves as a consistent coordinator throughout the continuum of care assessing the physical, educational, psychological and social needs of the patient. And, if the patient is diagnosed with breast cancer, I work seamlessly with our surgical team and I am always available as a resource to the oncology team when needed.
As a Breast Navigator at Tri-County Health Care, I feel privileged to be able to support and guide our patients, and their loved ones, through their journey. The support and guidance starts with our initial conversation and continues we me as the point of contact each step of the journey. I like to think of myself as a proactive patient representative who provides support, education and guidance through complex health care issues and treatment as they relate to breast health, and sometimes the diagnosis of breast cancer. I like to think of myself as a communication link between the patient and other care providers.
During our first conversation, I like to share with my patients that I value open communication and reassure them that I will be with them through every step of the journey. It’s important that my patients know that I will visit with them, occasionally on the phone and sometimes in person, before, during or after appointments, testing and surgery.
Breast health concerns are a priority for women and at Tri-County Health Care we value the experience of our patients and believes it’s important to develop individualized treatment plans for our patients. This individualized approach assures that patients receive timely, quality care and I work diligently to remove barriers that stand between the patient and effective, comprehensive care. Part advocate, part teacher, part problem solver, part advisor, part friend, the nurse navigator provides one-on-one emotional support and services to help ease the burden for breast health patients and their loved ones.
As their trusted breast navigator, I believe it is important to be intricately involved with all areas of care related to my patient’s health. I work closely with our Tri-County Health Care surgeons, Dr. VanBruggen and Dr. Kloss and their nurses to schedule consultations, biopsies and follow-up appointments. When it’s the wish of the patients, I will go with the patient to their breast biopsy and offer support as needed.
The benefit of working with a nurse navigator is that there is never any pressure or rush put on the patients during their visits and if they forget to ask a question during the appointment, they can always call the breast navigator later when they think of it.
As a registered nurse, I am qualified and honored to provide not only information that helps patients navigate through their journey, from diagnosis to recovery and beyond, I also provide emotional support. By helping women through this process, I believe we provide hope.
If you or someone you know would like more information about the breast navigation program at Tri-County Health Car or about breast cancer screenings, diagnosis, treatment or follow-up care, please call me at 218-632-8182 or 218-639-4517.
About the Author:
Shannon is a lifetime resident of Wadena. Her husband Brian and her have three beautiful children Mason 9, McKenna 6 and Aubrey 3. They’ll be welcoming their fourth child in December. Shannon is currently the Women’s Health Coordinator and Breast Navigator at Tri-County Health Care. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends and doing anything outdoors.