Patricia Pugsley, RN, MSN, is a nurse navigator in hematology-oncology at Geisinger Community Medical Center (GCMC) in Scranton, Pa. She started working as the nurse navigator at GCMC when the hospital opened its new cancer center in October 2016.
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Q: What is the most important work you do as a nurse navigator?
Patricia Pugsley: As a hematology-oncology nurse navigator, I act as an advocate for patients undergoing a cancer diagnosis and their families. I work one-on-one with patients to ensure they have no obstacles that might interfere with completing their treatment plan, such as financial concerns, transportation or support at home. I try to anticipate any issues that might arise and work with patients to minimize these whenever possible. Staying current within the community is also important because it allows me to connect with resources that could benefit and support our patients.
Q: What do you like best about your job?
PP: I really enjoy the interactions I have with patients and their families, as well as the other members of our team: the oncologists, surgeons and radiation oncology. I also work closely with the GCMC surgical nurse navigator, Jennifer McDonald. We keep each other up to date on how patients are doing and their plans for treatment. We coordinate appointments and work together to ensure patients understand their individual plan and what their treatment options are.
By working together, we are able to improve the patient experience. We also take a team approach with our community health care partners, which allows us to collectively provide the best possible care for patients. Working with each patient and that person’s individual needs is a different experience, and I so appreciate being able to be a part of that experience.
Q: What value do you think nurse navigation provides?
PP: Being diagnosed with cancer can be a life-altering experience. There are many stressors: financial, fear of the unknown, appointments, tests, the possibility of surgery learning about treatment plans, just to name a few. Decisions often need to made fairly quickly, which can be very overwhelming. Patients and their families may have many questions and need help understanding their diagnosis, treatment options and ongoing care.
As a nurse helping patients navigate the health care system, my role is to help them learn about their diagnosis and help guide them as they face often complex treatment plans which can include multiple appointments, chemotherapy and uncomfortable side effects.
Q: What do you see as ways or opportunities to improve nurse navigation?
PP: I think by being more involved in community groups and encouraging participation in screening programs, we can help provide a broader and community-based support network for our patients.
Q: How do your colleagues view nurse navigation and care coordination?
PP: Although we are a new cancer center, our hospital staff and those from other disciplines have been very supportive. We recently started multidisciplinary clinics (MDC) in the cancer center and have received a positive response from both patients and providers who are interested in participating.
The cancer center staff members are very supportive of the MDC role. They understand the necessity of being able to provide this high level of individualized care under one roof and on the same appointment day so our patients do not have to travel or visit multiple specialists on different days and in different locations.
Q: What would you say to an organization that is contemplating whether to implement a nurse navigation program?
PP: Nurse navigation can tremendously improve the experience of patients when they are undergoing a cancer diagnosis. Helping patients understand complex treatment plans, learn about their medications, manage side effects of treatments and manage their care at home allows us to provide a better level of care. Any relief, clarification and additional support we can help provide to a patient is a wonderful vocation.