Kherri-Lynn Rego, RN, BSN, ONC, is the orthopedic nurse navigator at Saint Anne’s Hospital in Fall River, Mass. She has served in this position since October 2016.
Q: What is the most important work you do as a nurse navigator?
Kherri-Lynn Rego: My role as a nurse navigator allows me to be an integral component of an interdisciplinary team, working alongside our orthopedic surgeons, physician assistants, anesthesia team, home health agencies, rehabilitation facilities, and hospital community education programs to effectively coordinate the patient’s plan of care.
As orthopedic nurse navigator, I am responsible for guiding our orthopedic patients throughout the entire continuum of care, beginning at the patient’s initial office visit, through their surgical procedure, and well beyond their discharge from the hospital, providing follow-up and guidance throughout the post-discharge phase. My main objective is to facilitate various steps in planning for and recovering from orthopedic surgery, enhance the patient/family experience, and, consequently, improve patient outcomes.
What I find most important about my work is helping patients to achieve a sense of empowerment. By enhancing a patient’s knowledge and helping them to achieve a higher form of health literacy, I have the opportunity to have a considerable impact on their ability to care for themselves. This type of one-on-one education is an invaluable resource that truly does change lives.
Q: What do you like best about your job?
KLR: First and foremost, I love being a nurse. Nursing is a profession that combines compassion and determination to promote and maintain the wellness of human life. Nurses have a responsibility to provide optimal care and service to improve health and restore wellness to other human beings. It’s one thing to have the motivation to improve one’s own life, but to have the determination to improve another person’s life is an opportunity in and of itself. In my role as nurse navigator, I have been incredibly fortunate to form connections with patients that lie beyond simply treating their medical condition.
I also truly enjoy the intellectual challenges of the nurse navigation role. This position encourages me to draw upon the knowledge and skills I’ve attained throughout my education and experience to solve more complex patient care issues. To me, nursing in my community is a promise to work persistently and raise the bar higher in demonstrating affordable care that remains advantageous to patients’ health. Being a resource to these patients is truly a privilege.
Q: What value do you think nurse navigation provides?
KLR: Patient satisfaction has become one of the most crucial components to any significant health care improvement. Nurse navigators help to ensure that high-quality, safe care is provided and that the patient is a true partner in their care. Today’s health care environment demands educators and leaders who exemplify a commitment to excellence and foster a culture of collaboration. Nurse navigators set an example by fostering creative ways to communicate a vision. This role provides continued value in promoting group cohesion and focus to discover innovative ways to improve patient care. Modeling professional expectations and behaviors, mastering clinical excellence, and maintaining openness to improvement are vital elements to creating an invested orthopedic team.
To sustain and increase quality of care, health care providers must develop innovative techniques to educate patients. Nurse navigators have the ability to implement quality improvement strategies to build upon the framework of patient satisfaction by developing education plans that assist in promoting improvement in care provided by the entire interdisciplinary team. By embracing change and capitalizing on new opportunities to promote a positive impact, nurse navigation enhances the patient’s overall outcomes and experience.
Q: Can you share any particular patient stories or experiences that demonstrate the value of nurse navigation?
KLR: In May 2017, I ruptured my Achilles’ tendon, so I underwent orthopedic surgery myself. How ironic, I know! I opted to have my procedure done at my place of employment, because, although we are a medium-size community hospital, I wholeheartedly believe that we have one of the best orthopedic programs in the country. I absolutely would not be able to market a program and emphasize what an excellent team we have if I did not believe in it myself.
That being said, when I began the pre-admission testing process, I must admit that I chuckled a bit when asked if I wanted a copy of my rights and responsibilities. It was so strange to be on the opposite end of the continuum. Through this experience, I had the opportunity to completely navigate our program from start to finish as a patient. I had the same technicians, nurses, physicians, and anesthesiologists as our patients. I came to understand exactly how “this medication is going to make you a little sleepy” really felt.
A few months later, I was getting a rather painful massage (a necessary evil) at physical therapy and I heard someone yell, “I know you. You’re my orthopedic lady!” I turned around to see one of our orthopedic patients completing his exercises. He proceeded to commend the hospital and emphasized how seamless his transition from admission to discharge had been, thanks to the nurse navigator role.
Q: What is your biggest challenge as a nurse navigator?
KLR: The biggest challenge that I face as a nurse navigator is prioritizing the time I spend connecting with patients. Interacting with patients gives me a firsthand look at any perceived or potential challenges that I can identify from the start. Getting to know the patient behind the medical diagnosis is an essential component to providing exceptional care, so it can be challenging to limit the amount of time I spend interacting with each individual.
Q: What do you hope for as the future for nurse navigation in the United States?
KLR: I hope that nurse navigation continues to expand and evolve. In a rapidly changing health care system, it is all too easy to forget about the “person” who lies beyond the diagnosis. Having a single resource to help navigate patients through their procedure has a dramatic impact on shared decision-making and remains advantageous to everyone involved in the patient’s care.
As nurse navigation roles are being formalized around the country, I hope that navigators continue to assume responsibility in acting as a responsible entity that values the core mission of the nursing profession. Coordination of care is one of the most vital elements fueling health care reform today, and nurse navigation lies at the heart of such care.