Theresa Stern, MPT, is the director of the Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center (OCMMC) Neuroscience Institute in Fountain Valley, Calif., program director of OCMMC’s Center for Spine Health, a physical therapist and a patient navigator. She started working as a patient navigator in June 2016.
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Q: What is the most important work you do as a patient navigator?
Theresa Stern: I believe the most important work I do as a navigator is coordinating care for our patients and medical providers. This can be an extremely difficult time for patients suffering with back pain, and there can be many moving parts related to their spine care. Serving as a resource for our patients and providers to ensure all of the information has been effectively communicated and patients are properly educated and informed is an extremely important component of the OCMMC Center for Spine Health program.
Q: What do you like best about your job?
TS: Without a doubt, my favorite part of this job is watching patients get better. I personally know how debilitating spine pain can be, and it is a joy to watch our patients return to their normal levels of function without pain.
Q: Can you share any particular patient stories or experiences that demonstrate the value of nurse navigation?
TS: There are so many stories; it is hard to share just one! I have received tearful expressions of sincere, heart-felt gratitude from numerous patients because they are so thankful to be part of a program in which they feel so cared for and confident that we will find a way to improve their symptoms.
Q: What technology do you use in your position?
TS: The Epic electronic medical record system used at MemorialCare has been a very effective tool to schedule appointments and follow-up phone calls, document visits, exchange information with other healthcare providers and review outcome data. It has been a very valuable resource.
Q: What do you hope for as the future for nurse navigation in the United States?
TS: I believe navigation is a critical component of transforming “healthcare” into a true “healthcare system” where all the care providers are working collaboratively toward achieving the goal of patient wellness.