ANMC Oncology nurse navigators: helping you find your way | Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium

ANMC Oncology nurse navigators: helping you find your way

December 7, 2020

The Alaska Native Medical Center Oncology Clinic recently added nurse navigators as a new resource for Oncology patients and their families to better support them and help them navigate the beginning of their cancer journey.

Nurse navigators support, advocate for, and educate patients from the time of their initial diagnosis until their first appointment with Oncology. Since this process typically takes 2-4 weeks, they are a resource for each Oncology patient until the patient has an established plan of care, understands their path of treatment and has met their Oncology case manager. This way, patients will have a point of contact from diagnosis through treatment.

“Receiving a cancer diagnosis is not only a life-changing event for a person and their family, but it can also be incredibly confusing, stressful and overwhelming,” said Haleigh Sacks, ANMC Oncology nurse navigator. “We are here to be a trusted, compassionate resource for our patients after they receive a cancer diagnosis.”

Nurse navigators support the patient, their family and caregivers by providing education about the cancer diagnosis, treatment options once discussed with provider, side effects, and any additional education that is needed or requested. They assess patients for barriers within their cancer care and help provide information on community resources, support groups, educational programs and other resources to break down a patient’s care barriers to ensure quality care is always provided.

Oncology nurse navigators attend a patient’s first Oncology appointment with them and their family and provide any necessary education at that time. Since a patient is connected to a nurse navigator right after they receive their cancer diagnosis, by the time a patient has their first Oncology visit, they have typically developed a trusting relationship with their nurse navigator. 

After a patient’s first infusion, radiation or surgery appointment, their nurse navigator follows up with them to see if they need any additional support or education.

Patients are also given a booklet, created by the Oncology nurse navigators in partnership with the ANTHC Marketing and Communications department, which is tailored to fit the majority of our patients’ needs. The booklet is a valuable resource containing a patients’ care plan, contact information for staff involved in their care, appointment preparation tips, symptom diary, calendar, MyHealth information, notes section, and a glossary of commonly used cancer terms.

“We built this program to increase our patients’ overall satisfaction during the beginning of their cancer journey, helping them feel more involved and to have a better understanding of their Oncology Care Plan,” said Sacks. “Our hope is for our patients to know they are heard and to make sure they are part of the informed decision-making for their plan of care.”

Oncology patients have expressed feeling comfortable when having a familiar staff member at this first Oncology visit as they are able to advocate and provide support during that time. Oncology nurse navigator services are available to all newly-diagnosed Oncology patients. There are currently two Oncology Nurse Navigators at ANMC, they can be contacted at (907) 729-1180.

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