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Oncology Nurse Navigator Program Helps Support and Guide Cancer Patients

By Nancy V. Mills, APR

southwest-houston-cancer-nurse-navigators-400Receiving a diagnosis of cancer can be frightening and overwhelming. That's why Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital offers a Nurse Navigator Program to help guide, educate and support cancer patients from a possible cancer diagnosis through survivorship.

Memorial Hermann Southwest employs two Nurse Navigators (pictured right) who have years of experience in oncology nursing. Lilian Sweeney, R.N., B.S.N., O.C.N., C.B.C.N. (far right), works mainly with breast cancer patients while Deidra Teoh, R.N., O.C.N., M.S.N., assists all other cancer patients. Being in the presence of these caring oncology nurses, one quickly senses their deep commitment to combining their knowledge, skills and compassion to help patients secure the best outcomes.

As patient advocates, these Nurse Navigators serve as liaisons between patients and the cancer treatment team at Memorial Hermann Southwest. Their services are offered free of charge to all patients as soon as they learn of a possible cancer diagnosis.

Dedicated Cancer Experts Provide Clarity

Teoh said Nurse Navigators serve a wide spectrum of patient needs. Patients often need help understanding their diagnosis and treatment options so they can make informed decisions about their care. They also need assistance with referrals to healthcare providers, support groups and community resources; insurance and financial issues; appointment scheduling; and sometimes transportation. Nurse Navigators also provide plenty of emotional support to help patients deal with their fears and stay focused.

Bertha Mitchell met Teoh after a trip to the Memorial Hermann Southwest Emergency Center.

"I didn't know where to go," said Mitchell who was diagnosed with oral cancer. "Miss Deidra got me on the right path. She found me a primary care doctor and she made sure there were no delays in my surgery. I wouldn't trade her for anything."

Lekeysia Eugene also lavishes praise upon her Nurse Navigator. She met Sweeney when faced with a possible diagnosis of breast cancer.

"Lilian literally held my hand through two biopsies," said Eugene, who has no family in Houston to assist her. "She has provided needed information. She got books for my 10-year-old daughter to explain hair loss during chemotherapy. She made sure I had a blanket and pillow for chemotherapy. She contacted organizations that helped with meals when I've been recovering from chemotherapy. She is amazing and genuinely cares."

The smile on Eugene's face is a source of satisfaction for Sweeney. "I like removing any barriers patients might have so they can get timely access to quality care," she said. "This gives them one less thing to worry about so they can concentrate on healing and getting well. It's rewarding to see a patient's sense of relief that they don't have to face cancer alone."