Cartyna Patterson, RN, BSN, is an orthopedic nurse navigator for Lee Memorial Health System in Ft. Myers, Fla. She has served in this position since October 2015.
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Q: What is the most important work you do as a nurse navigator?
Cartyna Patterson: Although I view all of my tasks as equally important, I must say that making that initial contact with our patients prior to admission is extremely important. The majority of the patients that I meet are having an elective total joint replacement surgery. Even though the procedure is elective and may not be viewed as critical, this does not mean the anxiety is any less. Our patients are mandated to attend our preoperative joint class, which prepares them for the entire surgical process. This is also where I am able to meet them face to face and navigate them from pre-admission to discharge, as well as answer any questions as far as three months after discharge.
Q: What do you like best about your job?
CP: I really enjoy advocating for my patients; providing that human connection; assisting them with overcoming any barriers — whether real or conceived — within a healthcare system; maintaining communication and building relationships with the patient and family throughout their entire joint replacement process; and ensuring that they receive the highest quality, patient-centered care. I also enjoy working closely with other members of the orthopedic care team to coordinate care that is best suited to the needs of the patient. After being a caregiver to my husband during his total knee replacement and handling our issues firsthand, I know that through communication and being interpersonal and organized is what it takes to fulfill the navigator role and enhance the surgical experience for the patient.
Q: What value do you think nurse navigation provides?
CP: I feel that nurse navigators hold all the pieces together — the glue. We are the go-to person for the patient; the one they turn to in a time of need. Nurse navigators are able to put those feelings of unease to rest, whether by way of education, research or simply just providing an ear in times of distress. Those key elements bring about a positive patient experience and satisfaction, and with that comes greater cooperation and adherence to physician orders. Patient compliance increases a physician’s satisfaction, which promotes an environment of happiness and tranquility.
Q: How do your colleagues view nurse navigation and care coordination?
CP: I believe the orthopedic care team that I work with sees me as an extra set of eyes and ears. The one who is able to provide that little extra in care: time. I am able to sit and talk with the patient and family, and hold their hand in times of distress when other caregivers are unable to do so. It feels good to know that I have the support of administration, which allows me to do the right thing at the right time for every patient.
Q: What would you say to an organization that is contemplating whether to implement a nurse navigation program?
CP: I would advise them to do some research into other organizations that are utilizing nurse navigators. They soon will see that if they’re interested in ensuring that patients’ needs are met, coordination gaps are closed, strong patient-provider relationships are built and healthcare organizational goals are achieved, then a nurse navigator program is well worth implementing.