Cindy McDaniel, BSN, RN, CGRN, is the GI oncology nurse navigator for oncology services at North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo. She is a co-recipient of a 2016 SCOPY Award from the American College of Gastroenterology in the best event support and community engagement category. McDaniel has served as a nurse navigator since April 2016.
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Q: What is the most important work you do as a nurse navigator?
Cindy McDaniel: I think one of the most important aspects of being a nurse navigator is having the ability to effectively communicate to every person I meet. I must be able to explain different aspects of the patient’s care by using language that they understand. I do this by trying to get to know the patient on a personal level — beyond what the medical chart may state. I truly believe that knowledge is power, and the more my patients learn, the better their outcome will be. Effective communication also establishes trust with my patients. I want them to be able to depend on me for answers and to know that I care.
Q: What do you like best about your job?
CMD: The best thing about my job is that I get to meet someone new each day. I like talking, and I love learning about people’s lives. Everyone has a story to tell. I also am very passionate about spreading awareness of colon cancer and screening for colon cancer.
Q: What value do you think nurse navigation provides?
CMD: Navigation provides patients with an advocate. I not only coordinate patient’s care, but I also make sure their voice is heard. Some of my patients have very limited or no medical background. It is my job to help them understand, and also make sure their care team understands them.
Q: Can you share any particular patient stories or experiences that demonstrate the value of nurse navigation?
CMD: Oncology navigation began for me when my mother was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2008. She had wonderful care, but had questions about treatment, needed help coordinating appointments, and required assistance in verbalizing her wishes to her providers. I am very thankful that I got to be that person for her.
After her passing in 2014, I wanted to continue to help people like my mother. I became the first GI oncology nurse navigator at North Mississippi Medical Center this year. I feel very honored and blessed that I am able to help my patients through the process of colon cancer. I feel so honored that I get to do what I do every day.
Q: What is your biggest challenge as a nurse navigator?
CMD: The biggest challenge that I face is being the proverbial “all-knowing” person. In my view, a nurse navigator needs to be the patient’s resource for answers. If they have a question about a treatment, concerns about a medication, or even a need from a physician, I strive to know the correct answer or, at the very least, know how to find the answer for them.
Q: What do you see as ways or opportunities to improve nurse navigation?
CMD: I think nurse navigation can play a more active role in survivorship care plans. We are the patient’s care coordinator. It makes sense that we, as navigators, be able to explain what the patient’s survivorship looks like. The care plan is a wonderful tool for the patient.
Another place where we can improve is taking an active role community awareness and education. For example, I help patients with colorectal cancer. I know that colorectal cancer can be hereditary. If the patient has children, I make sure they know to be screened for colon cancer at a younger age.
Finally, we need to be not only an advocate for our patients, but a role model for a healthy life style. How can I encourage one of my patients the importance of quitting smoking if I smoke myself? We all need to practice what we preach.
Q: What technology do you use in your position?
CMD: I am very lucky in that every piece of technology I need is available to me. I use a desktop and laptop computer, my cell, and an office phone.
Q: How do your colleagues view nurse navigation and care coordination?
CMD: The people who I work with really enjoy being nurse navigators. Our cancer program has a breast navigator and also a lung navigator. We each see the value in helping our patients.
Q: What would you say to an organization that is contemplating whether to implement a nurse navigation program?
CMD: Initially, it is hard to validate the need for a navigation program. We aren’t a revenue producing department. However, a navigation program not only enhances a patient’s care, it enhances the patient’s experience.
Q: What do you hope for as the future for nurse navigation in the United States?
CMD: My hope is that nurse navigation grows to an essential part in everyone’s care, no matter the disease state.