In the past, patients who were diagnosed with lung disease had a double
burden to bear: coming to terms with their emotional reactions to the
diagnosis, and dealing with the practical considerations of treatment.
Once the shock of hearing the words “You have cancer” wears
off, what happens next?
Fortunately for patients of the Multidisciplinary Lung Cancer Clinic at
the Monocacy Health Partners’ Center for Chest Disease, what happens
next is very clear. Maggie Siebeneichen, the Clinic’s Thoracic Nurse
Navigator, reaches out to the patient and their family as quickly as possible.
And according to many of the patients whose care Maggie has helped coordinate
since taking on the position in 2012, connecting with her was the moment
when life immediately became more manageable.
The nurse navigators at FMH are all registered nurses whose sole responsibility
is to see that all the patients’ needs—medical, emotional
and logistical—are met. When tests and procedures need to be scheduled,
the navigator takes care of that. When results come in, the navigator
makes sure that everyone involved in the patient’s care—which
may be a surgeon, radiologist, medical and radiation oncologist among
many others—are notified. This sort of careful coordination assists
the care team to develop a unified, coherent treatment plan as quickly
and efficiently as possible.
“We understand that the treatment process raises a lot of questions,”
said Siebeneichen. “I want our patients and their families to feel
comfortable talking to me about whatever is on their minds.”
Nurse navigators like Siebeneichen also help connect patients and their
families with resources for emotional support, including FMH-sponsored
programs like Survivors Offering Support (a one-on-one mentoring program)
or American Cancer Society offerings such as
Look Good, Feel Better. When finances are a problem, the navigator can leverage the FMH Cancer
Patient Assistance Fund and other community resources to help address
immediate needs until a long term solution can be found.
“Multidisciplinary, coordinated care is the gold standard for the
treatment of cancer and chronic disease,” said Siebeneichen. “And
the nurse navigator is an important part of that approach. The navigator
works with the patient, their loved ones, and the entire team to help
keep the care plan on track. That means making sure that tests are scheduled
and completed, results are received and reviewed, and that the patient
and their loved ones are being informed every step of the way.”