Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be one of the most frightening moments in a person’s life. The days after the diagnosis can be even more challenging, with so many questions to answer: Where do I go for medical care? How will my body respond to treatment? How will I pay my medical bills? Who can I talk to about how I’m feeling?
To answer these questions and more, Piedmont’s free cancer patient navigation program is there to help. Cancer navigators are specially trained oncology nurses who serve as liaisons between patients, families and the medical team. They also connect patients with hospital and community resources.
“The role of the cancer navigator is really just that: it’s navigation for a patient or a family who is in a situation that is really unknown to them,” says Stephanie Martin, RN, BSN, a patient navigator at Piedmont Newnan Hospital.
“When a physician tells a patient that they have cancer, their first response is usually fear,” she explains. “They really need education and they need support.”
In her role as a navigator, Martin makes initial contact with patients to learn what they know about their diagnosis and how they feel. She educates them about their treatment options, identifies questions for patients to ask their physicians and coordinates appointments.
Educating her patients is one of Martin’s most important responsibilities.
“Education provides a sense of confidence for a cancer patient because it is so important to know what you are dealing with,” she explains.
For example, there are several kinds of breast cancer, so it is important for a patient to understand whether theirs is slow-growing or aggressive.
“When you have that knowledge of what it is, then you start to talk about what the plan is for that type and can get your head around what you have to go through and where you have to go,” says Martin.
No question overlooked
In addition to explaining conditions and treatments, navigators can help patients:
- Find community and hospital resources for financial support, transportation and basic needs.
- Apply for Medicaid if they do not have insurance.
- Find a wig or prosthesis.
- Learn more about programs at Cancer Wellness at Piedmont, all offered free of charge thanks to community support.
“So for anything that a patient could possibly need, it is always a good idea to go to the navigator. We can reach out to our community, to our social workers at the hospital, and a number of other places,” says Martin. “Ninety-nine percent of the time, we can get the patient taken care of.”
Clinical care support
Patients do not have to be in the Piedmont system to see Piedmont’s cancer navigators, though Martin encourages patients to consider treatment at Piedmont for a number of reasons.
“Piedmont is a team environment. We have such a wonderful group of people who truly care about their patients,” she says.
A cancer committee meets once a month, during which every discipline comes together to discuss each patient’s care.
“We all talk about [an individual patient] at the same time, so that we know everybody is in agreement with [his or her] treatment,” says Martin. “At the same time you’re getting good clinical care, you’re also getting good loving care.”
Quality of life
“We provide care for any patient, no matter their social situation, no matter their financial situation,” says Martin. “It’s a beautiful, wonderful thing. It’s free and it adds to your quality of life.”
For more information on cancer navigation, visit Piedmont Cancer Center.