Trudy Thompson Rice is the bariatric nurse navigator at Abrazo Scottsdale Campus in Phoenix, Ariz. She has served in this position since June 2016.
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Q: What is the most important work you do as a nurse navigator?
Trudy Thompson Rice: I “connect the dots” for our patients in a very fragmented health care system. I serve as coach, interpreter, advocate, and guide to my patients who are here for medically supervised weight loss and bariatric surgery. Many of them simply need someone to help them understand the process and procedures that they are undergoing as well as the emotions they experience along the weight loss journey.
Q: What do you like best about your job?
TTR: Seeing my patients relax and gain self-confidence when they realize they are not alone in this journey to health and reassuring their families that their loved one is getting good care.
Q: Can you share any particular patient stories or experiences that demonstrate the value of nurse navigation?
TTR: One of our phlebotomists had drawn pre-op labs on a patient scheduled for bariatric surgery. The patient was extremely nervous about the needle stick and told the phlebotomist that she really, really dreads the IV placement pre-op. She has had a fear of needles since she was a child and this fear has derailed her health care in the past. She shared that she was considering canceling surgery due to this fear.
The phlebotomist called me and asked me to speak with her about this issue. I went over and sat with him and our patient and we talked through her fears. We showed her an angiocath, let her touch it, see how flexible it is, and she asked questions about it. She was surprised — she thought a needle would stay in her hand for the two days she was in the hospital.
While she was still somewhat nervous, she said she has relaxed a great deal now that she understood the angiocath and had a successful blood draw. I introduced her to other nurses she would see in pre-op, where the IV is started, and she visibly relaxed when they all told her they would surround her with care on the day of her surgery.
Q: What is your biggest challenge as a nurse navigator?
TTR: Ensuring that patients don’t get “lost” in a busy, complex, fragmented health care system.
Q: What technology do you use in your position?
TTR: I use face-to-face communication whenever I can. High-tech is good. High-touch is better.
Q: What do you hope for as the future for nurse navigation in the United States?
TTR: I hope the position isn’t lost in the push to lean out our processes. Nurse navigation is nursing at its best — truly caring for our patients and being their advocates.