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Nurse Navigators: Concierge to Breast Cancer Patients

By: Lauren McRae

For many patients, battling cancer is an all-encompassing effort. When faced with a diagnosis there can be lots of steps and procedures a patient needs to do on their journey to get better. That’s why patients who are newly diagnosed with cancer have the added support of a specialized oncology Nurse Navigator to help them through their diagnosis and treatment.

(Left to Right: Beth Weigel, RN, and Angela Hallman, RN.)

NorthShore Nurse Navigators Beth Weigel, RN, and Angela Hallman, RN, with the help of Catherine Pesce, MD, FACS Director, Breast Surgical Program, are a trifecta when it comes to helping patients battling breast cancer.

Catherine E. Pesce

(Above: Catherine E. Pesce, MD)

Together, they work as a team and as a direct point of contact for patients who have questions about their diagnosis and treatment. “I’ve known Beth and Angie for years,” says Dr. Pesce. “They know our schedules, they know how to get a hold of us when needed, and they are great daily communicators,” she said. “When Beth and Angie speak with a patient who needs to see a surgeon, they help facilitate getting them an appointment with me as soon as possible, sometimes even the same day.”

As Nurse Navigators Weigel and Hallman help patients with a myrid of issues throughout their care and refer them to a variety of resources to aid them with their individual needs.

“Our job is to provide biopsy results in a timely fashion, assist the patient with scheduling appointments and guide them thru the process if they have a cancer diagnosis,” said Hallman. “I tell the patient I am their concierge.”

They are also there to answer questions and educate patients; act as a liaison between the patient and other caregivers; help with transitioning from medical facilities to home; and they provide advice on things like where chemotherapy patients can shop for wigs.

“Assigning a Nurse Navigator to a patient in need helps them feel like they have an advocate, said Hallman. “We give them our phone numbers and they’re happy to have someone they can always directly contact. I think that’s what makes the experience more personal.”

Weigel and Hallman agree it’s helpful to bounce ideas back and forth with one other and act as a support system for each other since they’re frequently delivering news that is difficult for patients to hear.

“The most challenging part of the role is being the first person to tell the patient they have breast cancer. The most rewarding part is assisting the patient with the next steps of their care so they feel appreciated and taken care of, which, hopefully, makes a stressful situation a little bit better,” said Weigel.

The Nurse Navigator program is instrumental in getting patients their results in the fastest way possible, which is what patients desire the most, said Pesce. “More than that, though, they are being called on by two (Angie or Beth) highly experienced, knowledgeable breast nurses who will not only ensure their results are accurate but navigate them through any additional management steps that may be required. If a patient needs to see a surgeon, it is the perfect first step to streamline the process and help get patients’ questions answered as soon as possible.”

Nurse navigators have a positive and valuable impact on patient care and the overall delivery of health care for cancer patients. Weigel adds a final thought, “Breast cancer is treatable,” she said. “You will be in good hands at NorthShore University Health System.”