The registered nurse patient navigator program at the CHI Memorial Rees Skillern Cancer Institute in Chattanooga, Tenn., began in 2007 with the opening of the comprehensive MaryEllen Locher Breast Center. Prior to that, the organization had a dedicated registered nurse educator from 1999-2007 who focused specifically on breast health care, abnormalities, lifestyle modifications and education for newly diagnosed patients. She became the first navigator when the program began.
CHI Memorial Rees Skillern Cancer Institute now has six nurse oncology navigators. They are available for all cancer patients, providing education and care coordination. Navigators focus on top cancer sites: breast, lung, blood cancers, colorectal, prostate, head and neck. Melanoma is in development, with a patient navigator available to guide and support patients and their families.
Kathy Dittmar, oncology service line administrator at CHI Memorial, spoke with NurseNavigation.com about the history and future of the navigation program.
Q: Why did your organization start a nurse navigation program?
Kathy Dittmar: We began our nurse navigator program to provide our patients with a point of contact, and help them know what to expect from the time of diagnosis to surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy. Our navigators support patients and coordinate their cancer care journey. They make sure patients know about the many services and resources available to them, and measure timeliness of care.
Q: What role does navigation and your navigators play in supporting your organization’s mission?
KD: CHI Memorial has four core values: reverence, integrity, compassion and excellence. Our navigators demonstrate these values as they help cancer patients “live well with cancer” by identifying distress and barriers to treatment. The navigator connects patients to the resources available, including complementary care for the whole person, provides a listening ear, helps them cope and be compliant with the treatment plan.
Q: What are the most important values your program provides?
KD: Our RN navigator program is very valuable for our patients from known abnormality to diagnosis, through treatment and celebrations with survivors. The navigators support patients through their cancer journey, assist patients to manage information flow, which could be overwhelming, providing explanations and education every step of the way. Navigators respect the multi-disciplinary treatment plans, patient and physician preferences, and serve as the patients’ advocate to communicate concerns, provide coordination of quality care.
Q: What plans do you have to further grow your program?
KD: In 2007, we started the navigation program with one oncology-certified RN breast cancer navigator. As the need increases with new patients, we will add navigators for care coordination, to oversee patient’s seamless journey and support the unique needs of the individual patients. Navigators reinforce excellence and clinical quality care which elevates the patient’s cancer journey throughout CHI Memorial.