Gretchen Klug, RN, BSN, CN-BN, is a women’s health nurse navigator for the Center for Women’s Health at Watertown Regional Medical Center (WRMC) in Watertown, Wis. She has served as a navigator for WRMC since April 2012.
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Q: What is your biggest challenge as a nurse navigator?
Gretchen Klug: One of the biggest challenges facing nurse navigators is explaining what navigation is and what value it has for the patient and healthcare system. You are a what? What exactly do you do? I thought you were a nurse? These questions are frequently asked when people are getting to know me. I am a nurse navigator, but what does that mean?
Nurse navigators facilitate conversations among healthcare providers, explain confusing medical terminology to patients, wade through insurance networks and benefits, and have countless other duties while supporting the patient physically and emotionally through a particular health event. In a word, I would explain being a nurse navigator as being a “guide.” And a trusted one at that.
Q: What value do you think nurse navigation provides?
GK: By providing a nurse navigator in a specific clinical area, organizations are pledging to patients that there will always be a personal connection for patients throughout their health journey. In the broad area of women’s health, navigation can support a wide scope of women’s needs. Whether having a breast biopsy, having surgery for specific gynecologic procedure, or needing referrals and care coordination for a diagnosis of cancer, patients will benefit when questions arise and support is needed. They are only a phone call (or a stop by the clinic) away from support.
Q: What is the most important work you do as a nurse navigator?
GK: Specifically, as a women’s health navigator, I am nestled in an OB/GYN clinic and diagnostic imaging center. Our organization strives to make office visits and consultations with OB/GYNs as well as needed diagnostic services with immediate results by on-site radiologists a priority. Patients receive accurate and timely diagnosis. Through the medical process, questions will arise, emotional support will be needed and the journey of health care coordination begins. It is such a privilege to be able to step in when any need arises and help connect with and care for the patient at an early stage and thus facilitating the best possible care.
Q: What do you like best about your job?
GK: I enjoy getting to know the specific needs of each patient outside of the medical diagnosis they have received. Yes, many people may have cancer. Many people will need surgery and ongoing treatment. But treating each person as an individual with specific strengths and needs is the highlight of my job. By helping to identify financial, emotional, knowledge and spiritual strengths and needs ensures that each patient is cared for as an individual and not as a person with a diagnosis.
Q: What do you hope for as the future for nurse navigation in the United States?
GK: As we train future nurses, it would be amazing to integrate clinical rotations for nursing students with a nurse navigator so students can see what the role encompasses and how patients are supported. Many nursing tasks in clinical settings are diagnosis and medical plan of care driven. Nurse navigation strongly focuses on the patients needs, which is what nursing is all about.