Wanda Barbour Dent, BSN, RN, CMSRN, is a cancer nurse navigator at Baptist Cancer Center-North Mississippi. She began working as a navigator in November 2014.
Q: What is the most important work you do as a nurse navigator?
Wanda Barbour Dent: As a navigator, the most important work I do is to serve as an advocate for each of my patients. I like to meet patients as soon as possible after diagnosis and be present for the first oncology appointments. I take notes for them and meet with them following the appointment to answer any questions and provide them with the guidelines, education and resources that will help guide them in their healthcare decisions.
Coordinating timely access to care and identifying and resolving barriers to care are both extremely import aspects of my work as a navigator. My goal is to guide each of my patients along the continuum of care so it is as smooth as possible through every aspect and transition, from diagnosis through survivorship.
Q: What do you like best about your job?
WBD: It’s hard to say what I like the best, but I think it is the close relationships that are formed with patients, families, caregivers, physicians, and the whole multidisciplinary team. When I am able to help a patient overcome a barrier, make a transition smoother, intercede on behalf of a patient, ease anxiety or expedite care, I feel a joy that is almost unexplainable. I have never felt more valuable than when navigating a cancer patient along the continuum of care.
Q: What value do you think nurse navigation provides?
WBD: I think one of my patients said it best: “Every patient should have a navigator, no matter what their diagnosis might be. I couldn’t have made it without mine.” I also know this first hand. I was diagnosed with breast cancer almost three years ago and I would have been lost without my navigator. I had an amazing navigator who was with me every step of my cancer journey. I knew I could call, text or email her and I would get a response. I knew she would answer my questions using evidenced-based best practices, and if she couldn’t answer, she would find the answer. She is the reason I am a navigator. She is now my mentor.
The patient-centered care that navigators provide identifies and resolves barriers, improves patient satisfaction and patient compliance, promotes physician satisfaction, and helps expedite care. Navigators partner with communities to promote early detection and prevention of cancer. All of this is of great value.
Q: Can you share any particular patient stories or experiences that demonstrate the value of nurse navigation?
WBD: Yes, I have many, but here’s the one that I think really demonstrates the value of nurse navigation. I received a call from our medical oncology office telling me that one of my patients had called to say she was not going to get her port-a-cath inserted. This patient was young and had an aggressive breast cancer. We had a relationship because I had met her when she had her biopsy and I had gone to her initial medical oncology visit with her. Through our conversation, I discovered that she did not feel comfortable with her physician. I was able to answer her questions and get her a second opinion quickly. She then had her port-a-cath placed, completed chemotherapy, and continues to be cancer free.
Having a navigator that she trusted made the difference in her getting treatment and not getting treatment. She was very shy, and would never have told her physician or his nurse of her concerns. She was willing to tell me because she knew, as a nurse navigator, I was her advocate.
Q: What do you hope for as the future for nurse navigation in the United States?
WBD: My hope is that every cancer center in our country will have nurse navigators. Nurse navigation provides the base support for our cancer programs. Nurse navigators work hard to make sure cancer care is indeed patient centered. Besides coordinating care, identifying and resolving barriers, providing resources and providing educational, emotional and social support, navigators improve patient loyalty.