Oncology Nurse Navigators Lead the Way
Oncology Nurse Navigators
Colleen Brey, BSN, RN, OCN,
Debbie Zimmerman, BSN, RN, OCN,
Mary Kamrath, BSN, RN, OCN
Deanna Young , BSN, RN
A cancer diagnosis is frightening and the complex nature of cancer care can be daunting. For patients with limited knowledge of healthcare, this combination can lead to being overwhelmed.
That’s why Owensboro Health’s Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center has oncology nurse navigators.
“Navigators helps patients through the healthcare system and to get through one of the most difficult times of their lives,” said Debbie Zimmerman, RN, a lung cancer navigator at the Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center.
Navigators are networkers and problem-solvers.
“Our job is to identify barriers and help patients overcome them,” Zimmerman said. “We are a central contact for them. If they don’t know whom to ask, they can call us.”
"Nurse navigators help improve patient care. They make sure the patients get all the services they need," Brey said.
Zimmerman helps patients with lung cancer through the areas of treatment. Colleen Brey, RN (mentioned earlier) is the navigator for lung cancer screenings. A dedicated navigator just for screenings is needed now more than ever, as the number of patients being screened continues to swell.
“We do chart reviews and make sure the patient is followed up on and not missed. We make sure the patient is educated, that they understand, and we ensure their care is streamlined and given in a timely manner.”
That includes use of a software called Radiant, which was used previously for patients with breast cancer, and is now helping track patients being screened for lung cancer. Radiant is a part of Owensboro Health’s Epic electronic medical records system, and it can even notify providers when a patient needs follow-up screening or care.
“The number of patients receiving lung cancer screenings has increased over the years. With increased volume, we needed a better way to keep track of these patients,” Brey said. “This is a better way to make sure they get their follow-up.”
And Zimmerman said this process is making a difference.
“I’m following numerous patients with Stage IV lung cancers who are living into their third year now. Before, it would have been just months,” Zimmerman said. “They’re living longer and tolerating their treatment better.”