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Q: What is the most important work you do as a breast cancer nurse navigator?
Kathi Bouland: Breast cancer is the most common cancer women are diagnosed with. Women, in general, are multi-taskers, and the sudden diagnosis of breast cancer can be a major life-changing event. I believe being there when they are diagnosed and reassuring them that I will be that “liaison” they need to help them navigate through the medical system is very comforting. Breast cancer is treated by a multidisciplinary team of providers. My role is to educate and empower patients as they make decisions on their treatment. Accessibility to a continual resource, for questions and needs, is important to their mental and physical wellbeing.
Q: What do you like best about your job?
KB: My role at the SwedishAmerican Division of UW Health Breast Health Center and Regional Cancer Center has many components. It includes educating the patient, providing support to the patient during procedures, assisting in breast biopsies, facilitating breast tumor conferences, prosthesis fittings, providing assistance in clinic, and community education.
I love the fact that I have many opportunities to affect the breast cancer patient with education and support during treatment. I also enjoy educating the public because with breast cancer, prevention and early detection is the key.
Q: What value do you think that nurse navigation provides?
KB: My initial meeting with the patient is when they are given their results from their biopsy. There are many things assessed at that time. It is imperative that the needs of the patient are realized and connections are made to the services the patient will require. It is important that barriers are identified (e.g., financial, medical, social) so that treatment is not delayed. It is not only a benefit to patient care, but also to the health system.
Q: How do your colleagues view nurse navigation and care coordination?
KB: Our health system now has three navigators, which includes a lung cancer navigator and a radiation navigator in addition to my position. I was named the first navigator in the system nine years ago. When I started, there were struggles in the perception of what a breast cancer nurse navigator role would be. In time, the advantages that navigation gave to the patient and care providers became obvious. It helped in the coordination and facilitation of the patient care, creating a higher standard of quality care and greater patient satisfaction. There has been positive feedback from the physicians, caregivers and patients as I continue to coordinate care for the newly diagnosed breast cancer patient. I truly believe we are a team!
Q: What do I hope for as the future for nurse navigation in the United States?
KB: As oncology is my specialty, I feel that it is imperative that navigation continues to grow in the cancer field. Depending on the cancer, treatment can sometimes go on for months, even years. The patient needs that resource to help guide them through the continuum of care. There are blood cancers, GI cancers, pediatric cancers, and many more. As the adult nurse practitioner and physician assistant roles grow in efforts of addressing the physician shortage and cost reduction for patient care, so can navigation. There will also be a need for the specialty trained navigators who can benefit the health systems and patients, and help ensure quality outcomes.