As nurse navigators, we’re used to giving. We give to our patients and caregivers in myriad ways every day: holding a hand, listening to a grievance, or advocating for a patient when they have no one else at their side. We give to our patients every time we educate, coordinate care, and remove barriers. We help them to navigate this extraordinarily complex medical system from hospitals, clinics, hospices, outpatient facilities, and imaging units where we are housed. Our reach stretches out across cities and regions and right into the homes of the people we are caring for.
The team I serve on, which is comprised of nine full-time oncology nurse navigators, has been giving throughout 2017. I asked some of them to share some thoughts about how their gift of caring has helped their patients in 2017. Here are just a few of their stories:
“I have a patient who lives in her car. I managed to find housing for her while she is on treatment and collected hats and socks for her while she was waiting for a place to live. She told me I was the only one who cared.”
“My patient was too nervous to speak to her doctor about what she really wanted because her family and doctor wanted her to get aggressive treatment. I sat in with her during every appointment and redirected the conversation when I saw she was being offered treatment she didn’t want. In the end, she got to make the decisions, and she told me if I hadn’t been there she would have received care she didn’t want.”
“I explained to my patient what his cancer staging meant and the different treatment options he’d been offered. After hearing more information, he was able to make a decision on care with all the facts available. He told me he and his family would not have been able to do that without my input.”
“My patient needed to have a biopsy done urgently, but the medical authorization was delayed. After nearly an hour on the phone to different people, I managed to expedite the authorization and my patient had the biopsy completed within 24 hours. This meant she started treatment right away.”
“I had a young patient about to start chemotherapy for aggressive metastatic cervical cancer who hadn’t had any conversation about egg retrieval prior to beginning treatment. I was able to educate her about fertility and expedite a referral to a fertility clinic. She had egg retrieval done before she started treatment. She told me if it wasn’t for this information, she would have probably never been able to have children.”
The list goes on and on. Nurse navigators give to their patients constantly — wonderful gifts every day, and not just during the holidays. If you are a nurse navigator, I would like to remind you that you have impacted your patients in more ways than you know. Yes, there are all the tangible gifts you give, like education, care coordination, and advocacy, but there are also all the intangible gifts you give without even knowing. Those are the gifts of holding a hand, listening with your heart, and walking alongside someone during desperate times. They are equally important to the patient and caregiver; they make a difference.
Thank you for giving, and keep strong for the New Year. Remember: You have much more still to give.