PATERSON, NJ [SEPTEMBER 14, 2011]- The American Cancer Society Patient Navigator Program at St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center in Paterson recently marked its third anniversary. The program was initiated through support received from AstraZeneca, and St. Joseph's was the first site to be launched in New Jersey as part of a strategic nationwide effort to significantly extend the reach of this innovative program and assist individual cancer patients in negotiating the health care system.
The American Cancer Society Patient Navigator Program directly connects cancer patients to a cancer education and support specialist – known as a "navigator" – who, through one-on-one relationships, serves as a personal guide to patients and caregivers as they face the psychological, emotional and financial challenges that cancer can bring. The service is free and confidential, and places an emphasis on assisting the medically underserved.
As no cancer experience is the same, American Cancer Society patient navigators connect patients and caregivers with the most appropriate programs and services to help improve each individual's access to health care and quality of life. Whether it is getting patients and caregivers the information they need to make treatment decisions and better understand their disease, helping them deal with the day-to-day challenges of living with cancer, such as transportation and insurance issues, or connecting them with community resources such as support groups, American Cancer Society patient navigators can provide help throughout the disease continuum – from the time of diagnosis, through treatment, into survivorship. Furthermore, navigators are able to increase treatment compliance and follow-up care.
An American Cancer Society Patient Navigator has been on staff at St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center for the past 3 years. Current Patient Navigator Lorena Alvarez brings the added bonus of being bilingual which is a key component for providing quality service to our large Hispanic population. "Many times patients are unaware of the many resources that are available to them. As a patient navigator I can link them to needed services that relieve the stress of going through cancer," says Lorena.
The Patient Navigation program has assisted in nearly 3,100 patient requests for service since July 1, 2008. As the program has built and gained recognition among staff and patients, the monthly requests for service for patients averages between 120 - 175 requests each month. Lorena can be found meeting with patients, whether in the Infusion Center, in-patient unit, or in the Oncology Clinic. She connects them to services available within the hospital, the community, and the free services of the American Cancer Society. The broad array of services includes financial assistance, transportation to treatment, emotional support, aid for caregivers, and more. Additional American Cancer Society services include free wigs to women who have lost their hair during cancer treatment, 'Reach to Recovery' - a peer support connection for women with breast cancer, and 'Look Good Feel Better' - a free cosmetic makeover program to help women with the skin and hair changes that can occur during cancer treatment.
"This collaboration with the American Cancer Society in the continuation of the Patient Navigator Program at St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center has afforded the privilege of providing personalized community resources and support to our oncology patients," said Lisa Rouson, RN-BC, OCN, MPA, Director of Cancer Services, St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center. "This program proactively reaches those patients who are most in need of specialized services and support, providing the critical link to local resources that will improve their outcomes and quality of life."