Meghan Walker, RN, MSN, CBCN, is the breast nurse navigator for The Holloway Breast Health Center at Paoli (Pa.) Hospital, part of Main Line Health. She has served in this position for six years. Walker recently received the 2016 Nurse.com GEM Award for Excellence in Community Care.
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Q: What do you like best about your job?
Meghan Walker: My favorite part of the job is interacting with patients and their families. When you visit a patient who has just had bilateral mastectomies and been through a roller coaster of emotions, it is the most rewarding thing in the world to see their face light up when you walk through the door. Patients appreciate the smallest and most humble of gestures and that is so rewarding.
It’s also so great to know that perhaps you made something easier for a patient who is experiencing one of the toughest challenges imaginable. Being a nurse navigator is very humbling. When you go home at the end of the day and realize that your day was easy compared to your patient’s day, it instantly puts things into perspective. Having that constant point of perspective is a beautiful part of this job because it’s a reminder to enjoy every day, to be grateful, and live fully as the future is never guaranteed.
Q: What value do you think nurse navigation provides?
MW: Nurse navigators provide value in a unique way that often cannot be measured in traditional terms. There is no dollar amount that can be placed on the initial phone call after diagnosis to a patient who is reeling from that diagnosis; the hand holding at the bedside as the patient is about to go to surgery cannot be measured; the reassuring of patients that you’re here for them for everything from practical questions and guidance to emotional support. Knowing that patients are well supported and prepared for their journey is invaluable.
Q: What is your biggest challenge as a nurse navigator?
MW: My biggest challenge as a nurse navigator is unfortunately having too many patients and not enough time in the day to spend as much time as I would like with each one. That being said, I try my best to meet each patient’s and family’s unique set of needs. I think that time spent talking with patients and their support team is so valuable and goes a long way in reassuring them.
Since there are so many women, and sometimes men, affected by breast cancer, there is a steady stream of patients that need and deserve a nurse navigator to provide support and guidance. I feel pulled in many directions most days and no two days are alike. Nurse navigators learn to triage what’s critical and do the best they can with each day to help as many patients as possible and hopefully make things a little easier during a very stressful time.
Q: How do your colleagues view nurse navigation and care coordination?
MW: I think that nurse navigation is misunderstood by a lot of people. There are so many ideas about what nurse navigation is and should be and some of them aren’t necessarily true. For patients who have experienced the benefits of having a nurse navigator, they could likely describe it the best.
Colleagues know and understand that we support and guide our patients through the continuum of care. However, until you witness that in action, it’s very difficult to understand the nuances of the role. They respect the navigator role and often defer to us as an expert on subject matter in our field. And I know that they are glad that we are available for our patients.
Q: What do you hope for as the future for nurse navigation in the United States
MW: My hope for nurse navigation in the United States is that it becomes available for every patient and every disease site. All patients deserve to have the personalized care, support, and guidance that a nurse navigator offers. It is my hope that everyone involved in healthcare recognizes the importance of navigation and how patients feel knowing they always have a lifeline to reach out to before, during, and after treatment.