Viry Dummermuth, BSN, RN, is oncology nurse navigator for St. Catherine Hospital in Garden City, Kan. She has served in this position since January 2017. Dummermuth is the facilitator of the St. Catherine Hospital and Heartland Cancer Center “Kitchen Therapy” program.
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Q: What is the most important work you do as a nurse navigator?
Viry Dummermuth: I think all the work we do as navigators is important. I don’t believe one task or piece of work is more important than another. As nurse navigators, we provide physical, emotional, and mental support to patients and their families. What we may see as an insignificant job or task may be seen by the patient or family as a big help or support.
The role of a nurse navigator was created to bridge gaps in care by helping patients and their families overcome barriers and facilitate their quality of care while providing support and guidance through the health care system. We also help educate patients and their families about their cancer, treatments, side effects, or anything else related to their diagnosis. Like I said, as nurse navigators, every job or task we do is equally as important.
Q: What do you like best about your job?
VD: I’m sure every nurse says the same thing, but the best thing about my job is my patients. Without them my job would not be possible. Cancer is an unfortunate diagnosis that nobody deserves or should ever have to go through but it is the reality. I do this for my patients. Everyone deserves the best fight against cancer, which is why we do this job — to give them that chance. I have met some of the most incredible people working in oncology. You really do meet real-life super heroes fighting the toughest villain out there.
Q: What is the biggest challenge as a nurse navigator?
VD: The biggest challenge I have seen so far, and will probably continue to see, is people don’t know what a nurse navigator does, so I feel like we are underutilized. I get the question, “What does a nurse navigator do?” very often. Our marketing team at St. Catherine Hospital does a lot of marketing outreach which has helped with the providers, but the patients still don’t know what we do. When I first meet a patient, I try to briefly talk about what a nurse navigator is but in the “My Journey” binders (a patient education/resource binder I give all my patients) I include a role description of what a nurse navigator does so they can utilize me to the maximum.
Q: What do you see as ways or opportunities to improve nurse navigation?
VD: I feel like you really can’t go wrong with how a nurse navigation program is executed. As long as nurse navigators are improving a patient’s quality of care, then they’re doing their job. The way nurse navigation can be improved would be to better educate the providers and patients on the role of a navigator and how to use them to their maximum potential.
Q: What would you say to an organization that is contemplating whether to implement a nurse navigation program?
VD: I would say do it! Everyone benefits from a nurse navigation program — the providers, the patients, and the facility. The providers benefit because the patients are not falling through the gaps of care anymore; the near misses are being caught. Providers also benefit because patients will contact the nurse navigators with their questions, which will decrease the amount of calls to the providers. The patients benefit because the nurse navigator is their one point of contact for any/all of their questions. They don’t have to figure out whom to call for what question. The facility benefits because patients are no longer falling through the gaps or going to other facilities for care.
Patients and navigators forge a bond which itself nurtures a bond with the facility. The patient will continue to get care at that facility if they have a connection to it – which happens to be the navigator.