Sayre, Pa. – Guthrie’s Cancer Center is enhancing patient care through the use of “patient navigators”, registered nurses specially trained to help patients deal with the complexities of being treated for lung or breast cancer.
Newly diagnosed patients are easily overwhelmed and may not fully understand their physician's recommendations, says Guthrie Chief of Hematology/Oncology Dr. Philip Lowry. “They may be confused by multiple appointments or hesitate to proceed while coming to grips with their diagnosis. Patient navigators increase the likelihood that a patient will follow all of their doctor’s advice by coordinating appointments and explaining procedures to patients.”
“We don't want people to fall through the cracks. By coordinating their care, we have better outcomes,” says lung cancer patient navigator Melanie Nittinger, RN, an oncology-certified nurse. “Patients like having one person to count on to answer questions, and I can make a difference in their care,” she says.
Navigators have the medical knowledge to explain why a test or treatment needs to be done and what is involved with it. They attend treatment planning discussions with the medial team and help coordinate the patient’s care. Patient navigators consider the whole patient and arrange for needed services that can improve outcomes. For example, Nittinger may request a dietary consult for a patient who is losing weight, or a social work consult for a patient having difficulty coping with their cancer diagnosis.
Guthrie Clinic physicians offer Oncology care in eight locations across the region and chemotherapy is also available so that patients do not have to travel to Sayre, Pa for all of their treatment.
The American Society of Clinical Oncology's Commission on Cancer advocates patient navigators and has included them in program standards to be phased in starting in 2015. By then, Guthrie's well-established patient navigation program expects to expand beyond the navigators currently caring for lung and breast cancer patients.
Guthrie Health is a community-based, not-for-profit health care system jointly formed by Guthrie Healthcare System (GHS) and Guthrie Clinic, also not-for-profit health care organizations. GHS provides inpatient, outpatient and home-based services through Corning Hospital, Troy Community Hospital, Robert Packer Hospital, and Guthrie Home Care and Guthrie Hospice. Guthrie Clinic provides primary and specialty physician services at 25 regional clinics. Guthrie Health provides care for 200,000 patients annually within its eleven-county area service area across the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York.