Susan Gimbel, MSN, RN, OCN, is a certified breast patient navigator at Palomar Health’s Jean McLaughlin Women’s Center for Health and Healing in Poway, Calif. She has served as a nurse navigator since October 2012.
Q: How would you define your role as a nurse navigator?
Susan Gimbel: I educate, advocate, and support my patients from pre-diagnosis through survivorship. Each nurse navigator has slightly different roles depending on the population they serve, but some of the common functions for us revolve around education, advocacy, and supporting our patients throughout their cancer journey. I try to make the treatment process go as smoothly for my patient as possible.
Q: What is the most important work you do as a nurse navigator?
SG: For me, it’s the long-term relationship I create with my patients. I am first introduced to them at the time of the breast biopsy recommendation and stay connected every step of the way through treatment and into survivorship. I remain the constant through what can be a fragmented and cumbersome medical system. I believe having easy access to a nurse navigator makes a difficult journey a little easier for the patient and family.
Q: What do you like best about your job?
SG: The best part of my job is knowing that I make a difference in my patient’s care. As a nurse, I am a caretaker; to know that my interventions make such a positive impact on my patient’s experience is very rewarding. Being able to help women through some of their darker days is what keeps me going and keeps me advocating for them.
Q: What value do you think nurse navigation provides?
SG: Nurse navigators are valuable in so many ways; ensuring patients stay within the health care system, removing barriers to care, and improving timeliness of care which can improve patient outcomes are just a few that come to mind. I believe the greatest value of nurse navigation is the positive impact navigation has on the patient’s experience; improved patient satisfaction is a vital outcome.
Q: What is your biggest challenge as a nurse navigator?
SG: One of my biggest struggles as breast cancer nurse navigator in a community setting is creating a sense of cohesion among the patients’ providers. Our system does not provide a comprehensive cancer center under one roof. High-quality care is provided, but patients are often traveling throughout the region for their various appointments. This can create frustration and a sense of fragmented care for our patients.
As nurse navigator, I work hard to be the “connecting thread.” Our oncology providers, imaging centers, and treatment centers are located miles apart and often do not share the same electronic medical record system. It is my responsibility to try and eliminate the distance between providers and create a sense of cohesion and comprehensive care that our patients’ desire.
Q: What do you see as ways or opportunities to improve nurse navigation?
SG: It is my hope that nurse navigators become commonplace not only in the field of oncology but throughout other service lines as well. In today’s complex health care landscape, patients need an experienced, knowledgeable, and caring professional to advocate, educate, and support them through their health care journey. Patients, providers, and health care organizations all benefit from nurse navigation services. It’s a win-win-win situation!
Note: Learn more about Gimbel and the role she played in navigating a patient through breast cancer surgery in the videos below!