A patient says Baptist Health System’s navigator helped her find ‘new normal.’
(Left to Right) Marissa Rodriguez, Andrea Kassem and Sherry Archer.
Hearing the words “You have cancer” is devastating. But the answer to “What happens next?” is what many patients fear the most. Uncertainties and unique challenges can seem overwhelming and disconcerting.
At Baptist Health System in San Antonio, patients never have to fear the unknown or feel alone on their journey through cancer treatment. As part of Baptist’s commitment to patient-centered care, every patient who receives a cancer diagnosis is offered access to a nurse navigator. Nurse navigators are experienced oncology nurses who serve as a patient’s personal concierge. They provide patients with education and support throughout the entire journey from the time of their diagnosis to continuing on through survivorship.
Providing excellence in cancer care is reflected in Baptist Health System’s accreditation and distinctions from the Commission on Cancer. With navigators in breast, lung and gastrointestinal cancer programs, Baptist Health System encompasses the entire trajectory of the cancer care continuum.
Single mom Sheri Kasper was 43 years old when she underwent a unilateral mastectomy with breast reconstruction.
“After surgery, I felt lost and didn’t know how to get back to living normally,” she says. “Baptist Health System connected me with a nurse navigator who turned out to be my angel.”
The navigator Kasper met with regularly is Andrea Kassem, RN. In addition to certification as a breast nurse navigator, Kassem is also a nationally board-certified health and wellness coach.
Kasper says Kassem helped her discover what she calls her “new normal.”
“Andrea went above and beyond. She listened and empowered me to make my own decisions about how I’d get back to doing the things I used to do before diagnosis,” Kasper says. “She made me feel safe and reassured me that I could do anything I set my mind to. If it hadn’t been for her, I wouldn’t be as brave or as self-confident as I am today. I’m able to move forward with my life after cancer without being afraid or unsure.”
Nurse navigators help guide patients every step of the way, including assisting them in making appointments for doctor visits and additional medical testing or screenings. Navigators also provide support by helping communicate with healthcare providers, as well as with insurance companies, employers, case managers, lawyers, or other agencies or individuals who play a role that may affect the patients’ healthcare needs and well-being.
The navigation program is also based upon community needs assessments and addresses healthcare disparities and barriers to care. Patient navigation in cancer care provides specialized assistance for the community, patients and caregivers to assist in overcoming barriers to receiving care and facilitating timely access to clinical services and resources. Having a navigator shepherding a patient’s care across the continuum using the clinical expertise embedded in evidence-based nursing practice is paramount to assure excellence in service and to optimize a patient-centered experience.
The navigation program was introduced at Baptist Health System in 2011, with its Baptist Breast Network being the first platform to include a navigator as part of its oncology care team. Two years later, Baptist Health System expanded its program to include navigators in lung and gastrointestinal cancers.
In addition to clinical navigators, Baptist Health System employs two lay navigators. Including both a clinical navigator and a lay navigator in the care of oncology patients balances the art and science of patient-centered care to ensure a sense of hope, healing and security for all patients and their families.