Sanford Health nurse navigators guide cancer patients

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Sponsored - Cancer is an intimidating diagnosis. In the tangle of appointments, medications and even operations, patients can easily feel overwhelmed and lost.

That’s why Sanford Health has nurse navigators—a group of registered nurses dedicated to the coordination of care throughout a cancer patient’s journey. Nurse navigators are at the center of the care process, guiding patients and their families through the many challenges of cancer treatment.

“A navigator takes patients by the hand and leads them through their cancer journey,” said Laurie Kruse, a nursing ambulatory manager at Sanford Health in Sioux Falls. “They are there at pivotal points, from first to last visit.”

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(Gabrielle Pike)

Nurse navigators are an essential piece of the team approach to cancer care at Sanford Health. They’re present at many appointments as another set of ears for the patient. They translate any confusing disease or treatment information into simple terms, coordinate appointments and connect patients to supportive resources—all so patients can focus on healing.

Navigators specialize in order to provide quality care across the cancer spectrum. Specializations in the Sioux Falls region include breast cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, genomics and oncofertility, gynecologic cancer, head and neck cancer, lung cancer, genitourinary cancer, hematology and survivorship. Navigators in the Fargo region cover a few additional types of tumors. Because every cancer is different, every patient has unique needs.

“Navigators are the information hubs for their patients,” Kruse said. “They gain an intimate understanding of what each patient needs based on his or her diagnosis.”

Most crucially, nurse navigators represent the best interests of their patients in ongoing communication with other members of the care team. When experts from all corners of cancer care come together to present and discuss patient cases in weekly multi-disciplinary cancer conferences, nurse navigators play a key role.

“Navigators are the connective tissue of the care team,” Kruse said. “They help coordinate the weekly conferences.”

As expert educators, communicators and coordinators, nurse navigators improve the entire process of cancer treatment. They’re a touchpoint for cancer patients and their caregivers, always working to ensure that healing is the patient’s main focus.

As soon as a patient hears “cancer,” a nurse navigator is there to help ease the burden with compassion and expertise. They prove that, at Sanford Health, no one faces cancer alone.