Mary “Polly” White, BSN, IBCLC, is a NICU nurse navigator at Anne Arundel Medical Center (AAMC) in Annapolis, Md. She has served with AAMC since August 1992.
Q: What is the most important work you do as a nurse navigator?
Polly White: I help new parents navigate through their first days of parenthood. For me, establishing good rapport with families is the most important thing. I want them to know they have a friend and advocate in the NICU. I also play an important role as conduit between families and medical/nursing staff. I’m able to help the whole team.
Q: What do you like best about your job?
PW: Helping families through what can be a stressful time in their lives. I provide a lot of emotional and educational support. For instance, I find a lot a joy in explaining to new parents what’s going on with their baby, talking to them about what to expect in the coming months, and helping them prepare to take their baby home.
Q: What value do you think nurse navigation provides?
PW: Nurses have multiple patients to care for. As a nurse navigator, I’m able to spend more time with families. I’m also really proud of my work to help establish our parent socials, which act as informal support groups for our NICU families. Parent socials bring families experiencing similar situations together.
Q: Can you share any particular patient stories or experiences that demonstrate the value of nurse navigation?
PW: We have the “Journey Bead Program” in our NICU. Mothers of babies born at 32 weeks or earlier receive journey bead necklaces. A bead is added to the necklace for each milestone the baby achieves while at the hospital. Milestones include coming off breathing support, first skin-to-skin contact, and first breastfeed or bottle feed. Parents really look forward to the red bead they receive when they get discharged. Red represents the heart of the home they’re going to.
It’s such a simple thing, but it allows for positive interaction with our parents. Negative emotions can crop up with any new parent. The journey bead necklaces are a way to help parents think positive and recognize their baby is moving forward in the best possible way.
Q: What is your biggest challenge as a nurse navigator?
PW: Time. I am in contact with all of our patients and it seems like there is never enough time to get everything done.
Q: What do you see as ways or opportunities to improve nurse navigation?
PW: Awareness. There are a lot of patients who don’t know what a nurse navigator is.
Q: What would you say to an organization that is contemplating whether to implement a nurse navigation program?
PW: I would tell them about the tremendous benefits of a nurse navigation program. The extra support to both patients and medical/nursing staff can help improve overall patient satisfaction as well as the overall wellbeing of staff.
Q: What do you hope for as the future for nurse navigation in the United States?
PW: Continue to increase the use of and funding for nurse navigation. I would also like to see more awareness of the profession.