Kathryn Bouwhuis, RN, BSN, OCN, is a nurse navigator at the Mercy Health Comprehensive Breast Center in Grand Rapids, Mich. She has served in this position since August 2013.
Q: What do you like best about your job?
Kathryn Bouwhuis: I love being with patients from start to finish, which is usually from diagnosis into survivorship. Because of this, I am able to build trusting relationships with patients and families. I am the constant in their treatment. When they are done with one modality and move to the next, I stay with them and make sure that everything is still going as planned, which gives them comfort and stability during a very unstable time.
I am moved by my patients on a daily basis. Watching them rise to the challenge of fighting cancer is inspiring.
Q: What value do you think nurse navigation provides?
KB: There are many aspects to nurse navigation that are important, but the one I value the most is the ability to put all the pieces of the care plan together in an understandable way for the patient and family. Nurse navigators have the ability to look at a care plan from a macro level, and then, piece by piece, connect the dots so patients and families comprehend their whole story, which is really amazing, and the patients appreciate this viewpoint. It helps patients understand their trajectory for treatment. As a result, the patient and family experience is much more linear.
Q: What is your biggest challenge as a nurse navigator?
KB: What I love and value most about navigation is also the most challenging. We have an amazing team that works very well together; however, when complicated cases arise, it is really challenging and sometimes overwhelming to put all the pieces together. And when these cases occur, it makes me even more grateful that our patients are able to benefit from a nurse navigator because if I am having a hard time figuring out a situation, I can’t imagine a patient trying to navigate these same issues while also having the stress of a cancer diagnosis.
Q: What technology do you use in your position?
KB: We researched software systems and there were a couple that would have fit well into our program. However, we didn’t want to spend the majority of our time double entering large amounts of data, so currently we have a simple database that tracks our specifics metrics. We also use our Outlook calendars to track appointments and follow-ups, which is a great and easy way to use system.
Q: How do your colleagues view nurse navigation and care coordination?
KB: I feel very lucky to be at an organization that supports nurse navigation 100%. Everyone at our cancer center appreciates our skill set and how we are able to guide the patient and family through their cancer journey.
As health care becomes more complex, care coordination is extremely important and our cancer center understands this facet. Our whole team, which includes a variety of staff, medical assistants, schedulers, physicians, radiologists and social workers, all work together to make sure the patient and family are at the center of that care. Nurse navigators are there to piece it all together.