Parkridge Health System - November 25, 2017

Eden Weiss, RN, thoracic oncology nurse navigator

The reality each newly diagnosed patient must face after leaving a physician's office with a cancer diagnosis is that a multitude of specialist appointments must be made; financial assistance must be secured; and social services, such as transportation and billing assistance, must be coordinated. The amount of work that goes into a course of cancer treatment is daunting, to say the least.

That's where oncology navigators come in.

A GPS For Your Cancer Journey

Eden Weiss, RN, thoracic oncology nurse navigator with Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at Parkridge Medical Center, cannot precisely define her role because it encompasses so many aspects and varies with each patient she shepherds through the treatment process.

A nurse navigator's role is initiated by positive pathology that indicates a cancer diagnosis, and the initial meeting between the navigator and the patient often takes place on the Day Surgery floor at Parkridge Medical Center or Parkridge East Hospital. At that point, Eden gives patients her contact information and discusses the next steps of their treatment path.

"My role is similar to the navigation system in a car," Eden said. "You may rely on GPS to get you from point A to point B, and I do the same thing with regards to cancer care. Patients who have been diagnosed with cancer often feel lost and don't know where to go. They can think of me as the navigation system for their cancer journey. I'm with them from discovery to recovery."

Cancer treatments are patient-specific and encompass a variety of medical appointments, so part of Eden's job is to coordinate appointments with medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, surgeons, rehabilitation therapists and other providers. This typically facilitates quicker appointment making.

In addition to the many medical aspects of cancer treatment, patients need to be connected to a host of community resources. Eden has forged a strong relationship with the American Cancer Society, which provides a number of educational opportunities for patients looking to learn more about their cancer and treatment plans.

Eden also secures financial assistance that makes cancer medication more affordable.

"Many of the patients I work with are uninsured - and cancer treatments aren't cheap," she said. "But many pharmaceutical companies provide assistance. Sometimes patients can get medicines shipped to them for free."

At the heart of the nurse navigator role is patient support, so a navigator's duties may change from patient to patient. Some patients want to speak at length with someone about their cancer journey, and Eden's expertise is particularly helpful in such situations. Some patients need reminders about appointments, so Eden calls to remind them. But not every patient wants or needs such close coordination.

"I touch base with each patient on a weekly basis unless he or she does not want that," Eden said. "Some patients like to make their appointments themselves and don't necessarily want constant reminders. Others look forward to weekly calls. I tailor my approach to each patient."

An Advocate for Every Patient

Before stepping into her role as thoracic oncology nurse navigator, Eden spent more than four years as a registered nurse on the Oncology Unit at Parkridge Medical Center. There, she learned the patient care side of oncology, which makes her an invaluable asset to patients.

Above all else, Eden wants her patients to know that they are not alone.

"I want patients to know that I am her to advocate for them," Eden said. "If they receive a cancer diagnosis, I am here to make their cancer journey as smooth as possible."

Eden's patients know they have a direct line on her if they ever need anything. At their initial meeting, Eden gives patients the number to her work cell, which she keeps with her and answers at all times.

For more information about oncology nurse navigation, visit Parkridge Health

To further enhance the journey for patients with any type of cancer and to strengthen their network of support, Eden has launched a series of Snack & Learn opportunities for patients to meet, discuss their experiences and participate in educational seminars. The inaugural Snack & Learn will be held at 5:30pm on Nov. 28 at Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at Parkridge Medical Center and will feature registered dietitian Angie Hamilton, who will present a seminar on nutrition and cancer.

To reserve your spot for the Snack & Learn, call (423) 493-2439.