Wheeling Health Right in Wheeling, W.Va., is a non-profit organization serving the uninsured and underinsured of West Virginia and Ohio in and around Wheeling. Marshall County West Virginia has the second highest death rate from breast cancer in the state, trailing only Marion County. Wheeling Health Right was charged with attempting to decrease those rates.
In August 2016, Wheeling Health Right created the Marshall County Breast Cancer Care Coordination Program with a grant provided by Susan G. Komen West Virginia. Then, in September, Wheeling Health Right received a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through the West Virginia Program to Increase Colorectal Cancer Screening to provide a nurse navigator for colorectal screenings.
As a small organization and free clinic, Wheeling Health Right presently employs a single nurse navigator: Cindy Wade, RN. “I and fortunate to have the support and knowledge of a dedicated staff,” she says.
The clinic’s nurse navigation specialties include breast and colorectal cancer. The services provided include in-house testing, monitoring and identification of high-risk patients by the clinic’s staff of providers, who also collaborate with local physicians to provide screenings for early detection of breast or colon cancers, cancer treatments and surgery.
“We desire to educate the local population of the importance of these screenings and, of course, helping those that have been diagnosed with cancer navigate the sometimes overwhelming course of treatment,” Wade says.
Navigation at Wheeling Health Right
Wade spoke with NurseNavigation.com about her role and future of the navigation program.
Q: What role does navigation play in supporting your organization’s mission?
Cindy Wade: Our mission is to serve those who need it most: the working poor and the homeless. Nurse navigation is a wonderful way to enhance the services to our patients and it provides a continuity of care.
The nurse navigator will give our patients a touchstone — someone they can rely upon and have confidence in that will care for them like family. We provide physical, spiritual and emotional support, as well as assistance with transportation for appointments and treatments for our patients.
Coordinating with a local hospital, we are able to provide wigs, bras and other cancer support items free of charge for those in need.
Q: What do you think is the most important work you do as a nurse navigator?
CW: The most important thing I do as a navigator I think is relative. To me, the most important thing is that we get people educated to how important screenings are and increase the percentage of area patients that have early, lifesaving screenings.
To the patient, the most important thing may be having a friend to walk through the procedures, diagnosis and treatment with them.
To the physicians and hospitals, the most important thing I may do is facilitate seamless and effective assistance for appointments and treatments of patients.
The nurse navigation position is a value to all involved, and I am honored to be able to take on this position.
Q: What do you like best about your job?
CW: The favorite part of my job is helping those who need it most. I receive such blessings from my patients. Nursing is not the easiest profession, but the grateful patient makes it all worthwhile.
I have been a nurse for 14 years and worked in emergency medicine, hospice, acute and cardiac care, and nursing homes, but Wheeling Heath Right and what we do here is so special. Our patients are truly thankful for everything that we do for them, and I carry their smiles home with me every night.
I would say that most people desire to make an impact on another person’s life at one time or another, and here at Health Right we get to do that every day.
Q: What value do you think nurse navigation provides?
CW: I had never heard about nurse navigation until I took on this position, but I hope that nurse navigation becomes a household term in the medical industry. Navigators should be able to network and assist each other in the growing knowledge and experience of navigation. This is a specialty that is becoming more regularly seen in large hospitals and we are blessed to be able to offer this service at Health Right.
Q: What plans, if any, do you have to further grow your program?
CW: In the future, Wheeling Health Right will continue with outreach programs to educate the community on the importance of screenings. As funds allow, our navigation program will continue to grow and be able to reach more people in need of our services. Much of our area is rural and the obstacles to care are many. There is an ever-growing need for navigation assistance, and we will gladly provide this much needed service.
Q: What do you hope for as the future for nurse navigation in the United States?
CW: Nurse navigation is a growing trend, and I hope that by spreading the word about the benefits, it will eventually become a norm for the medical community. Nurse navigators need to be able to network and learn from each other how best to serve our patients. A database for nurse navigators would be beneficial for further education of navigators. Health Care in the United States is a confusing arena and Nurse Navigators will lead the way to untangling that knot for our patients.