When patients are diagnosed with cancer, they often shut down mentally as a reflexive coping mechanism.
As a result, many find themselves overwhelmed with the complexities of where to begin and the process of seeking treatments in light of such a diagnosis.
For this reason, there are two registered nurses at Lake District Hospital who serve in a role known as nurse navigators. Helena Hite and the latest addition to this position, Tina Copeland, serve to help guide patients through the long and winding road of the health care system where oncology services are concerned.
“The primary goal is to be there for the patient, and help them navigate through the complex health care system during the course of their cancer care,” Hite said. “Once they hear the word ‘cancer,’ honestly, they don’t hear anything else.”
Hite said she discusses with the patient’s physician or oncologist what their plan of care is going to be with a goal of helping them avoid financial issues as well as excess travel requirements.
Also part of the communications loop is the pharmacy to ensure there are no issues in obtaining proper medicine, Hite said.
Care needs for patients varies and is dependent upon the type of chemotherapy needed and the length of time needed for infusions, Hite said, and she helps to coordinate needed appointments to keep a patient on track.
“Not all our patients get their chemotherapy here,” Hite said, “but we work with their oncologists in Bend… and Portland… and they have shown a lot of support.”
Minimizing travel outside the community is a priority wherever possible, as traveling is often physically and financially draining for patients, she said.