News Center

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

St. Francis nurse navigators help cancer patients chart path through treatment

INDIANAPOLIS – In an age where GPS and Internet tools guide us to various destinations, the St. Francis Cancer Center has specialty nurses who help patients steer their way through the complexities of cancer diagnosis and treatment.

They are oncology nurse navigators, whose clinical nursing expertise helps patients, their families and their caregivers make informed decisions regarding care.

“Cancer requires that patients see an extensive team of specialists,” said Cassie Carney, R.N., breast cancer nurse navigator. “You might need to see a radiation oncologist, a surgical oncologist and even other subspecialists. It can be a navigational challenge for patients.”

Nurse navigators collaborate with members of the multidisciplinary team to allow for timely cancer screening, diagnosis, treatment and increased supportive care across the cancer continuum.

Some of the things with which a nurse navigator may assist the patient include:

  • Scheduling tests and appointments
  • Educating and supporting patients, empowering them to make informed treatment decisions
  • Providing psychological support during treatment
  • Assisting in removal of barriers that may disrupt or interrupt treatment
  • Identifying financial assistance programs and resources
  • Managing insurance
  • Arranging for transportation
  • Accessing medical records
  • Providing language translation services

For example, if a woman has a mammogram, and the results come back as abnormal, the next step is usually a biopsy. The nurse navigator meets the woman at the time of the biopsy to talk about her procedure and answer questions she may have. With the physician and patient’s permission, the navigator will be with the woman when the pathology report comes back.

If the results are benign, the navigator works with her to ensure she has the appropriate appointments made and to answer further questions. If she is diagnosed with cancer, the navigator helps the woman and her family through the cancer journey. Whether attending appointments, answering questions, providing emotional support or finding resources, the navigator helps the patient along every step of her journey to survival.

This relationship may continue for up to five years or until the woman decides she no longer needs assistance.

“A navigator is the hub in the wheel of care for each patient,” Carney said. “No matter where patients are in their cancer experience, the navigator is available to them.”

To learn more about nurse navigators at St. Francis Cancer Center, visit