Meet the nurses who help you navigate your cancer journey

October 21, 2020 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

Hearing your doctor tell you that you have cancer can leave you with more questions than answers.

How will this affect my family? My job? What did my doctor say about my treatment options? What appointments do I need to make? Can I still go about my daily routine?

It can be overwhelming.

A nurse navigator can help guide you through this challenging chapter in your life.

When talking to newly diagnosed breast cancer patients, Edward Hospital’s Breast Program Nurse Navigator Jessica Schnase, RN, MSN, OCN, CBCN, offers reassurance and lets them know she’s there to help along the way.

“I’ll be your new best friend and help get you to where you need to go as we start this cancer journey together,” Schnase often says.

The role of a nurse navigator is just as its name implies — to “navigate” patients as they deal with their diagnosis and go through treatment.  Think of them as a clearinghouse for information on your diagnosis.

They can help schedule appointments or tests, and guide patients to whatever the next step is on their journey. Often, they act as a clearinghouse of sorts, helping provide information and getting answers to a patient’s questions.

“Whatever I can do to make this as easy as possible and a little less scary — that’s the goal,” says Schnase, who also leads a breast cancer support group. “Patients appreciate knowing that there is one person keeping track of their treatment plan and one person they can call with questions or concerns.”

Like other nurse navigators, Schnase spends a good amount of time getting to know her patients to get better insight into what they may need along their journey.  That information can come in handy when outlining a treatment plan or scheduling appointments.

The relationship a nurse navigator builds with a patient can clue them into things as simple as knowing that appointments need to be scheduled around childcare or that a patient needs to have certain tests done before they head out of town for a work or family trip. Things that may seem small to one person can make a world of difference for another patient.

Nurse navigators also work with the medical team to help provide a holistic approach to treatment.

Schnase often tells each patient she’ll be by their side from diagnosis through survivorship — but it goes beyond. Even after her patients have been cancer-free she’ll hear from them from time to time. And for those patients who notice a new lump, Schnase is one of the first people called.

“It’s a deep relationship that never really ends,” she says.

Learn more about personalized cancer care at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

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