Receiving news of a cancer diagnosis can lead to a variety of emotions — anxiety, fear, confusion and worry. Medical terms alone can be confusing. Patients often feel unsure of where to go and what happens next.
Northside Hospital Cancer Institute understands this reality, which is why it created the oncology patient navigation program more than 15 years ago. The program serves to guide patients through the maze of the health care system and the complex nature of cancer care.
“Northside’s oncology patient navigation program takes a holistic team approach to navigating the patients from step to step in their treatment plan,” said Julie Schreiber, BSN, RN, OCN, CBCN, ONN-CG, supervisor of oncology patient navigation, Northside Hospital Cancer Institute.
Northside Hospital Cancer Institute’s oncology navigation team consists of oncology nurse navigators and nonclinical cancer care liaisons.
“This team works together to decrease anxiety, solve the barriers that are preventing the patient from getting care, and assist the patient to move forward in getting the care they need,” added Schreiber.
“Patients who come to Northside for their care can expect to be supported throughout their treatment journey, armed with information, and empowered by knowing who to go to for financial or emotional help.”
That was Barbara Nathan’s experience when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2023 following a mammogram at Northside. A subsequent phone call changed everything.
"Nurse navigator Kathy Clarke explained that she is available to me at any time if I have questions about the process or any medical questions I need answered," Nathan said. "Here was someone that would answer my questions and relieve my anxiety. She was calm and helpful on so many different levels.
“I relied on Kathy to answer the questions that I had forgotten to ask the doctor. … Kathy made sure that I had the answers I needed and continued to call me weekly to make sure I was doing well.”
Clark said that is exactly what they’re here for.
“Northside’s oncology nurse navigators assist patients from initial scary diagnosis, during every phase of treatment, through survivorship, providing education, resources and support,” Clark said.
Nurse navigators provide personalized support and reassurance and reliable information specific to patients’ needs, and can help patients to better understand the information they receive.
The oncology patient navigation team also includes cancer care liaisons — nonclinical team members who have been trained to identify and address barriers to care patients may be facing. As an “insider” within the health care system, these individuals help patients understand how to work through challenges they may have during their care and connect patients to the right people or resources for help.
"We have the privilege of walking alongside patients during one of the most challenging times of their lives, connecting them to resources and supporting them so they can focus on healing and recovery,” said Katie Lunn, cancer care liaison. “Our team provides patients with hope during a time of uncertainty by assuring them they are not alone on this journey.”
"This is the best program that Northside could ever create,” said Nathan. “When a patient does not have any medical training, having someone knowledgeable to relieve fears and guide you on the right path was the remedy for my situation.”
“What sets Northside apart is our ‘team’ approach to, not only the patient, but their family as well. ‘It takes a village’ as they say, and we are their village … from diagnosis through survivorship,” said nurse navigator Cindy Deminsky.
Added nurse navigator Demetrice Land, “During one of life’s scariest times, Northside Hospital’s navigation team is here to support and provide resources to our patients, so they will never feel like they are alone on this journey.”
Learn more about oncology patient navigation at Northside. To speak with an oncology patient navigation team member, please call 404-300-2800 or email [email protected].