Sharing hope is the most important part of my job as a nurse navigator

When most people hear the word “cancer,” they usually react with fear or distress. That’s why I’m so glad to work as a nurse navigator at MD Anderson League City: because I get to empower patients with knowledge to hopefully reduce those feelings.

My job is to be the first point of contact between MD Anderson and patients who’ve just been diagnosed with breast cancer. That can be a very scary time. So, I do my best to put people at ease — both by meeting them wherever they are emotionally and by giving them solid, accurate information to use. That way, they can make the best possible decisions about treatment with their families and care teams.

Planning ahead for consultations

My job requires me to be a good investigator. That means finding out patients’ hopes and expectations, and identifying any financial or family issues that might hinder their treatment. Many times, I’m able to connect people with local resources before they even get here, which can make their first visits much less stressful.

I also obtain patients’ medical history and review it with them, so I can get a sense of where they are before that first visit. I educate them about their diagnosis, too, so they have a better idea of what to expect once they arrive. My goal is to coordinate as much as I can in advance, so that both patients and their care teams feel fully prepared for those initial consultations.

Top-notch treatment, closer to home

The thing I like best about MD Anderson is that nurses actually have a seat at the table during those consultations. Our team approach to care means that nurses are among the many team members involved when it comes to how patients’ treatment plans are developed and carried out.

That’s just one of the reasons I’ve spent my entire nursing career at MD Anderson. I worked at the Texas Medical Center Campus for 12 years before transferring to where I am now. Back then, MD Anderson League City had a different name and was located a few miles away, but it was still close enough to home that I jumped at the opportunity when I had the chance to work here.

It means a lot to have an MD Anderson facility so close to where I live. It means a lot to our patients, too. It means they can get many of the same high-quality services out here that they can at the Texas Medical Center Campus, including Integrative Medicine and physical therapy. And our on-site volunteers are just as eager to offer them support.

Designing our locations with patients in mind

MD Anderson League City was actually designed with patients’ feedback in mind, so it’s very different from a traditional hospital environment. It has a very calm, soothing atmosphere, with lots of windows to let in natural light. And there are many open spaces available for people to sit and relax.

Details like this can make a big difference because cancer care is not a short-term plan. Some patients will return to our building many times before completing their treatment. So, it’s important that they feel safe, comfortable and welcome.

New therapies offer new hope

It’s extremely rewarding to see how much courage people have — and the strength they find within themselves to face cancer. I love hearing when our patients develop long-term plans again — and seeing them ring the bell to mark the end of their treatment.

Sometimes, I feel a little defeated when a patient dies. But I know they fought hard, so I keep forging on.

I also know that new treatments developed at MD Anderson are giving our patients a better chance of survival. As a brand new nurse back in 1997, I worked with many patients who joined our clinical trials. Some of the early therapies being explored back then have now become the standard treatment patients receive. It’s really exciting to be a part of that development phase and see it come to fruition.

The most important part of my job

Looking back now, choosing a career in nursing was the best decision I ever made. And choosing to work at MD Anderson was a close second. Because we’ve really made significant strides against cancer in my 22 years as a nurse. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

You never know what tomorrow might bring. But I do my best to empower our patients with the information they need to make good decisions.

I might be the last person someone sees or talks to at MD Anderson on any given day. So, I do my best to always keep a smile on my face. Because the most important part of my job is sharing hope.

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