Q: How does the SMIL Breast Nurse Navigator Program work?
A: The SMIL breast nurse navigator program available at all of our SMIL breast imaging centers consists of experienced nurses, nationally certified by the National Consortium of Breast Centers. Breast nurse navigators are available to women at all stages of breast care - whether you have a concern about routine screening, a diagnostic procedure like a breast biopsy or a breast cancer diagnosis. Breast nurse navigators are here to serve as educators providing information on breast cancer detection and answering any questions regarding your imaging, diagnosis and possible breast cancer treatment plan. With many years of experience, as well as a gift for communicating with clarity and empathy, our breast nurse navigators, along with SMIL radiologists and other staff, take tremendous pride in providing personalized, caring services to their breast care patients. Working in partnership with your physicians, our breast nurse navigators will facilitate scheduling appointments for breast imaging and follow-up, explain and clarify testing and results and serve as a link to connect you with appropriate breast health resources. Whether it is a quick phone conversation or a face-to-face meeting to discuss your concerns, our breast nurse navigators are here to offer the personalized care you have come to expect from SMIL.
Q: What are patient nurse navigator programs?
A: There are now several different kinds of programs in existence but the very first pilot program, over 20 years ago, was a breast health program at a New York hospital. The goal was to make certain that any woman with a suspicious breast cancer related finding would receive timely diagnosis and treatment. This breast health program, along with screening mammography and public education, correlated with a 30 percent increase in five-year survival rates among women diagnosed with breast cancer at that hospital center. These kinds of results paved the way for nurse navigator programs nationwide and the same concept has since been introduced into other cancer diagnoses.
Q: What is a breast nurse navigator program?
A: Breast nurse navigator programs vary but the shared goal is to save the lives of women by ensuring timely delivery of breast care, breast imaging and/or breast cancer care and treatment. Most women realize they should follow early breast cancer detection guidelines and follow up with their care providers. However, sometimes there are barriers that prevent an individual from seeking or even following these breast care guidelines. We see barriers such as access to care, a misunderstanding or fear of the breast cancer screening process, a fear of a positive breast cancer diagnosis and financial, emotional or family concerns. The key to successful breast nurse navigation is working with each breast care patient as an individual. The breast nurse navigator acts as a liaison between the patient and all other members of her healthcare team. In some instances it can be as simple as helping answer questions about routine breast screening and results or providing education for a woman and her family. In others, a patient may need the support of her breast nurse navigator to help coordinate and expedite her treatments and understand the different, sometimes complicated, options available to her. Caring communication is crucial during what can be a very stressful and confusing time.
Q: How should I choose a program?
A: There are various successful models for breast nurse navigation programs. To understand if a program is right for you, or someone you care for, it’s a good idea to learn who provides the assistance (lay people, cancer survivors, social workers, registered nurses, other healthcare professionals). Are the navigators certified? What types of assistance does the program offer (transportation, counseling, care coordination etc.)? When does assistance begin (pre-diagnosis, diagnosis or at another time) and when does it end (set the time period, end of treatment, follow into survivorship)? It is perhaps worth pointing out that some breast nurse navigators receive quite limited training while other programs require their navigators to be nationally certified.
Q: What does a breast nurse navigation program mean for a patient?
A: Breast nurse navigators make a huge difference for women facing a diagnosis of breast cancer and for their families. Breast cancer patients needs vary - sometimes it is resources, timelines and goals that a breast cancer patient wants. Other times, breast cancer patients want help charting a course and fully understanding options on the journey to recovery and sometimes the most important thing is having someone just be there by your side during an uncomfortable procedure, someone ready to reach out and hold your hand.