What Is a Clinical Navigator for Breast Health?
A clinical navigator for breast health is a registered nurse (RN) who has extensive knowledge of breast diseases. This person provides valuable support and information to women concerned with the health of their breasts.
“Some patients who see a clinical navigator for breast health have already received a breast cancer diagnosis while others have benign breast diseases,” said Peggy Johnson, RN, BSN, CBCN, clinical navigator for breast health and gynecological health. “Since most people with breast diseases are women, the majority of breast health nurse navigators are women as well.”
The importance of providing emotional support to patients and their families cannot be overstated. An RN in this role remains a constant presence and coordinator of the social, emotional, and educational needs of the patient and her family. The breast health nurse navigator also provides direct healthcare services under the supervision of a medical doctor.
Specific Duties of a Breast Health Nurse Navigator
Whether you are facing breast cancer or a less serious disease of the breasts, a clinical navigator for breast health is an invaluable resource. The list below is not all-inclusive, but it provides you with a good idea of what you can expect from this specialty RN:
- Someone to answer your questions and calm your fears throughout the treatment process. Your breast health nurse navigator is the person to see when you are seeking additional resources about your diagnosis and treatment options.
- Facilitates doctor recommendations regarding your care and makes sure that you understand the reason for these.
- As a nurse educator, this person provides you with the facts about your disease. She does not give opinions or advice about treatment. That is a role for your doctor. However, the specialty RN assigned to you can discuss the advantages and disadvantages for each of your options. Once you decide on a course of action, she trusts that you and your doctor have made the best choice for your breast disease and individual circumstances.
- Your nurse navigator assesses your social and educational needs and refers you to appropriate resources.
- The breast health nurse navigator leads support groups for patients, educates and advocates support for their partners, children, and other family members in many cases. At UHC the support group is called Butterfly Kiss, which meets monthly at the hospital. These sessions are open to anyone diagnosed with breast cancer and interested in help following diagnosis and /or treatment. Support and educational programs are provided.
- She may serve as an educator for other healthcare professionals as well as the public. Topics include self-examination, the early detection of breast disease, prevention tips, and the latest treatment options. This also requires time spent researching.
“As a clinical navigator for breast health, I deal with the emotional and scientific aspects of breast health care,” said Johnson. “While dealing with a breast disease is never easy, partnering with a clinical navigator for breast health can ease much of your anxiety.”
What Makes a Breast Health Nurse Navigator So Valuable to Your Treatment?
Every healthcare environment, including the Cecil B. Highland, Jr., and Barbara B. Highland Cancer Center at UHC, must cope with the challenge of minimizing costs while still providing excellent patient care. A nurse dedicated to helping women with breast cancer and other breast diseases navigate the system accomplishes this goal. Insurance companies can and do dictate when a patient must be released from the hospital. When you feel your discharge is too soon, a breast health nurse navigator equips you with resources and empowers you to understand your own care process.
During your hospital stay or scheduled appointments, your nurse educator teaches you self-care skills. This reduces your anxiety because you don’t have to wait for a caregiver to be available to help you, which may or may not be a covered service by your insurance company. Our experience proves that patients desire information and support more than anything else in their breast disease journey. This is exactly what an RN specializing in breast health provides.
Others may refer to a professional who fills this role as a case manager, nurse educator, or breast health specialist. Regardless if she is officially called a clinical navigator for breast health, her primary purpose is to provide physical, social, and psychological support for as long as you need it.
For more information contact Peggy Johnson, RN, BSN, clinical navigator for breast health at 681-342-1810.