Indiana Regional Medical Center (IRMC) in Indiana, Pa., is a nonprofit institution with a mission of serving its community with quality, progressive, compassionate patient care. IRMC’s nurse navigation program was formed when Sue Majoris, RN, was hired as its breast cancer nurse navigator in 2006.
The concept of a nurse navigator was new to the organization. Majoris wrote the job description, performance evaluations, competencies and surveyed staff — techs, nurses, and physicians — to determine their expectations of an oncology nurse navigator. Development of the program was spearheaded by Cindy Virgil, IRMC’s vice president of patient services. Virgil had the vision for the program, belief in its potential value, and supported its development.
Since navigation was also fairly new to the healthcare industry, it was difficult to find benchmarks in the geographical area. Majoris was given free rein to resolve this limitation. She contacted nearby hospitals and identified other oncology navigators. They organized a group that met every few months to compare notes. After meeting regularly for a few years, Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia organized an annual meeting, which still occurs today. Note: Harold P. Freeman, MD, considered the pioneer of patient navigation, attended one of the first meetings.
Thanks to Majoris’s hard work and Virgil’s support, IRMC’s navigation program has flourished. There are currently two nurse navigators: one full-time RN — Dena Diehl — and one casual RN — Majoris. Diehl navigates the patients full time while Majoris works with the patients casually and coordinates outreach events and support groups.
IRMC’s navigators coordinate care for oncology patients with breast and lung cancer. Navigators follow the patient from their first suspicious finding until a year after completion of treatment. Patient satisfaction surveys are sent to the patients following their treatment. Performance evaluations with staff and competencies are also used in measuring the staff performance and effectiveness of the program.
Navigation at IRMC
Diehl RN, MSN, CTTS, spoke with NurseNavigation.com about her role and future of the navigation program.
Q: Why did your organization start a nurse navigation program?
Dena Diehl: The nurse navigation program was started at IRMC to help breast cancer patients overcome barriers to care and achieve optimal health care outcomes. These patients were feeling lost and becoming lost in the organization, and needed someone to anchor them. IRMC wanted someone to be able to answer breast cancer patients’ questions, coordinate appointments, provide support, act as a resource, and educate patients on their cancer diagnosis.
Q: What role does navigation and your navigators play in supporting your organization’s mission?
DD: The navigators support the hospital’s mission by providing coordinated, high-quality, compassionate, and cost-effective care to the oncology patients.
Q: What are the most important values your program provides?
DD: The important values that IRMC’s navigation program provides are as follows:
- compassionate, individualized guidance;
- acting as a key link between patient and medical providers;
- striving to ensure that all patients follow their best path to recovery with the least amount of stress;
- education and support of each patient, empowering them to make informed treatment decisions; and
- serving as a support system throughout the entire cancer treatment process.
Q: What does your organization do to support the program?
DD: The entire IRMC organization is very supportive. IRMC wants its oncology patients to receive the best and timely care. The physicians and management offer great support to the program. My office is located in the radiology department. I work closely with the radiologist in scheduling and diagnosing the breast cancer patients. I am involved in the multidisciplinary team approach of treatment.
Q: What plans, if any, do you have to further grow your program?
DD: We plan to grow our navigation program by incorporating other cancers along with the breast and lung cancer services that are currently provided.