When the Alice & Carl Kirkland Cancer Center in Jackson, Tenn., opened a new comprehensive care facility in December 2013, the organization’s nurse navigation program started simultaneously. The program began with a single navigator — Breast Care Navigator Nori Pigue, RN — it has since expanded to include a second full-time navigator: Lung Care Nurse Navigator Jennifer Daugherty, RN.
Kirkland’s navigators serve patients with breast and lung cancer as these are most frequently diagnosed cancers in the area. Nori has worked diligently on the organization’s accreditation to become a comprehensive breast care center, while Jennifer helped create the only lung nodule clinic and low-dose CT lung cancer screening program in the region. Both went live in 2015.
To measure the value of the program, Kirkland uses patient satisfaction surveys. Each navigator also keeps up with monthly referrals from outside physicians and new patients as the organization accepts direct navigation referrals.
The navigators count on a variety of technologies to ensure patients receive the best care possible. They use scheduling abilities, alerts and reminders within the cancer center’s software/EMR programs. They also rely upon a web-based system for patient portal and navigation documentation.
Jennifer and Gina Myracle, executive director of the Kirkland Cancer Center, spoke with NurseNavigation.com about the history and future of the navigation program.
Q: Why did your organization start a nurse navigation program?
Jennifer Daugherty (JD): Our main purpose and goal for initiating a nurse navigation program was to provide continuity of care, replace anxiety with education and knowledge, and help eliminate treatment barriers. We wanted our patients to have one point of contact to coordinate services among medical providers, answer questions, and provide resources as well as emotional support.
Q: What role does navigation and your navigators play in supporting your organization’s mission?
JD: At Kirkland Cancer Center, our mission is “Redefining the healing process through unprecedented collaboration.” And our navigators do just that. They collaborate daily with surgeons, medical and radiation oncologists, primary providers, specialists, labs, nurses, other cancer centers, patients — anyone involved in a patient’s multidisciplinary care. Our navigators advocate for our patients through team work and effective communication.
Q: What is the most important value your program provides?
Gina Myracle: We want our patients to be as knowledgeable as possible about their cancer diagnosis, and our nurse navigators help our patients replace their fear and anxiety with information — and that is very empowering. At Kirkland Cancer Center, we strive to deliver exceptional patient-centered care, and this service is an integral part of our comprehensive team approach. We want our patients to know that at every turn, there is someone there to help make sense of it all.
Q: What does your organization do to support the program?
JD: Continuing nurse navigator education through national conference attendance, membership to national navigator organizations, and involvement in tumor boards. The physicians and nurses at Kirkland Cancer Center also actively involve our navigators during office visits and treatments. Departments outside of our cancer center also use our navigators — breast surgeons, cardiothoracic surgeons, and pulmonologists. These physicians regularly call on the navigators to meet with their newly diagnosed patients to bridge gaps in care, to better educate, and to ensure timeliness to treatment. We truly believe in patient-focused care, and it takes the whole team to ensure better patient outcomes.
Q: What plans do you have to further grow your program?
JD: We plan to add more navigators in the coming years. Our goal is to have a navigator specializing in each cancer site.