Mendy Lafon, MSN, RN, is a nurse navigator for OhioHealth Mansfield Heartburn Treatment Clinic in Mansfield, Ohio. She has served as a nurse navigator since June 2015.
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Q: What is the most important work you do as a nurse navigator?
Mendy Lafon: I feel like the most important work I do as a nurse navigator is being there for the patients. I am always available to answer questions they may have or just listen to their concerns. I am the first one to see the patient and get to know them even before the physician makes contact with them. I am there during procedures and surgeries, and I am there after those as well to follow up and make sure the process from beginning to end is positive. We deal with an array of issues and patients; each patient is unique and deserves individualized care.
Q: What do you like best about your job?
ML: What I like best about my job is being able to work close with the physician to develop a program that works well for the patient — to be able to collaborate with the physician to make sure the needs of patients are met and that they are getting the best care possible. I like that we are providing a program to our area that has never been available before. I like seeing how we are helping those patients that have sometimes been suffering for years with symptoms that we now are able to either control medically or surgically. I like seeing the positive results this program has brought to the community, and I like working with a physician that has passion for his job and specialty.
Q: What value do you think nurse navigation provides?
ML: I think it helps the patient have someone they can call at any time and someone who can answer questions and address concerns. It provides a patient easier access to information that is needed. Most of the time when you want to speak to a nurse you have to call the office and it may take a few days to get a response. Having a nurse navigator for the specialty helps the patient through a process that sometimes can be difficult and stressful. They know at any time they have a nurse just a phone call away.
I feel a nurse navigator also brings better patient satisfaction. I am able to follow and be there for the patient from beginning to end. I see the patient in the office. I am there to perform certain procedures. I am with the surgeon in the operating room to assist with the surgery. I see the patients post-operatively and talk with them on the phone once they go home. I am able to meet their needs in a more timely manner than those physicians and programs that do not have a navigator.
Q: Can you share any particular patient stories or experiences that demonstrate the value of nurse navigation?
ML: I don’t have a particular story, but as far as experiences that show value as a nurse navigator would be the one-on-one care the patients receive — the quicker results patients receive and, again, the individualized care they receive. By working close with the physician, a nurse navigator is able to discuss care and what outcomes patients need, and help prioritize what needs to be accomplished next. That demonstrates excellent value.
Q: What is your biggest challenge as a nurse navigator?
ML: I think my biggest challenge is time. I wish on some days there were more hours in the day or more time I could spend with patients. As the program grows, it becomes more difficult to spend as much time with patients as you want to. However, I will sacrifice my time to make sure every patient is taken care of and that they have the individualized care they deserve.
Q: What technology do you use in your position?
ML: I use technology every day in my position. The tools we use to diagnose and treat patients all involve some sort of technology. We have state-of-the-art equipment that helps us to diagnose patients and treat them. We have been provided with the latest tools to treat patients.
Q: How do your colleagues view nurse navigation and care coordination?
MF: Navigation is new to our facility and, as far as I can tell, my colleagues are seeing that having a nurse navigator helps to streamline patient care. They are seeing that they, too, are able to work close with the navigator and have questions answered about patients in a timely manner. They are able to contact me when they may have not been able to reach the physician in the past. It is also helping so that they are not calling the physician for everything and they have a resource for questions or concerns.
Q: What do you hope for as the future for nurse navigation in the United States?
ML: I hope in the future there are more nurse navigators for more specialties. I feel like the best way to treat patients is to have a person they know and trust and can count on when they need them. If each surgeon or physician could have a navigator, the care they provided would be more personalized.
Many times patients feel like just a number, but when you have a navigator who can work with them from beginning to end, they actually feel like they are being treated the way they should be.