By Lisa Coon, OSF HealthCare
When Nina Sharp was diagnosed with breast cancer she took comfort knowing the medical care she needed was close to home. The new OSF Cancer Center on the campus of OSF HealthCare St. Joseph Medical Center in Bloomington is a short drive from her home in Carlock.
At 68 years old, Nina was diligent about getting annual mammograms. So when her most recent mammogram showed evidence of a tumor, her doctor determined it was a new development.
From the beginning of her breast cancer journey, Nina was connected to a nurse navigator at the Breast Health Clinic at the OSF Cancer Center.
“When my doctor called to let me know that the needle biopsy indicated it was cancer, he referred me then to Julie Morton,” Nina said. “Pretty much by the time I got off the phone with my doctor she had already left me a message. It was very prompt that she connected with me.”
Benefits of a Nurse Navigator
Nurse navigators at the OSF Cancer Center’s Breast Health Clinic are an integral member of a patient’s care team. They can tailor education to the need of a patient, follow them throughout treatment, and provide the support they need throughout their journey. Nurse navigators also assist with scheduling appointments and genetic testing and help connect to any support services a patient may need, such as transportation, financial assistance, and more.
“There’s a lot of tests, appointments with different people. Julie really helped me by making those appointments for me,” Nina said. “There’s a lot of sitting on the phone. Getting appointments is very time consuming, and when you’re dealing with a problem, it’s just extra. It was super helpful to have Julie handle that. Plus she’s a registered nurse so she could explain a lot of the tests and procedures to me.”
Nina’s course of treatment included surgery to remove the tumor and 21 radiation sessions. The nurse navigator, she said, has been very proactive.
“I’m a person who likes to research my own stuff. But it’s really nice to have someone to bounce ideas, questions, and concerns off of. I’ve called her and probably 70 percent of the time she answers right away, and she reaches out to me if we haven’t talked in a while or if she sees a new test result come in.
“It really takes some of the stress off and makes you feel like you’re a little more in control,” Nina said. “She even came to the hospital on the day of my surgery and spent time with my husband. It’s just been super.”
Lacey Howard, manager of OSF Cancer Center, said just being there for the patient is a big part of what nurse navigators do.
“It’s a great benefit to have that support during their journey—for them and their family,” Lacey said. “Navigating through a new diagnosis and the unknown are difficult. Partnering with a breast health nurse navigator can give a patient peace of mind because she knows she will receive the best guidance and treatment.”
Focused on Breast Health
If a woman receives a breast cancer diagnosis, she can get a referral to the Breast Health Clinic at the OSF Cancer Center.
“If someone is having a biopsy and they need to feel support, please reach out to your provider to get that referral,” Lacey said.
In addition to being connected to a nurse navigator, patients can expect evidence-based education related to their diagnosis and a multidisciplinary team approach to care. The entire care team collaborates to provide the highest level of care to achieve the best outcome possible.
“Providing a comprehensive service like this allows the patient to meet with all members of the care team—surgery, medical oncology, and radiation oncology—at one appointment,” Lacey said. “The patient will leave the clinic with a strong knowledge base of what to expect about their specific treatment plan from all aspects, and they’ll have the nurse navigator to help guide the way to put the treatment plan into motion.”
Full Range of Care at OSF Cancer Center
The new OSF Cancer Center at the OSF Center for Health will provide the latest in radiation therapy from the Varian TrueBeam. This state-of-the-art piece of equipment delivers precise radiation dosage quickly so patients spend less time in treatment and more time with their family.
“As a whole, the OSF Cancer Center is highly connected with medical oncologists, surgeons, radiation oncologists, primary care providers, and other specialists who come together to provide holistic, evidence-based care for our patients,” Lacey said. “Not only do we offer patients navigation services, but our multidisciplinary team comes together weekly to discuss cases to ensure patients receive the best possible treatment as well as access to applicable clinical trials.
“As the largest provider of comprehensive cancer care in Bloomington-Normal and the surrounding communities, we’re excited to be able to provide access to high-quality care close to where our patients live and work.”
The OSF Cancer Center is located at the OSF Center for Health, 210 St. Joseph Drive, on the campus of OSF HealthCare St. Joseph Medical Center in Bloomington. Visit osfstjoseph.org.