Navigating Cancer

Parkview navigation team guides patients on their journey.
Apr 5, 2017
Jennifer L. Boen
Steve Vorderman
Navigating Cancer

Most of us rely on our vehicle’s or smartphone’s navigation system to ensure we find our way to our destination on the best, safest and fastest route. A good navigation system will alert us to detours and inform us of the nearest exits, gas stations and restaurants.

Parkview Cancer Institute’s nurse navigators have a similar role for individuals diagnosed with cancer, guiding them through unfamiliar territory, problem-solving the bumps and detours. Cancer treatment is becoming more multidisciplinary, complex and predominately outpatient. Patients and their families can feel overwhelmed, which is why Parkview is ramping up its oncology navigation services to more comprehensively and holistically address patients’ varied needs. 

“Our goal is that within the first 24 to 48 hours of diagnosis of cancer you will be contacted and meet face-to-face with a nurse navigator who will not only give you an overview of your diagnosis and treatment but will address all the things that are beyond the clinical cancer care,” says gastroenterologist Dr. Neil Sharma, president of Parkview Cancer Institute. Cancer care is much more than staging a tumor’s size and cell type and planning treatment, Sharma says. Optimal care includes addressing patients’ financial and transportation needs and assessing the impact on family and employment, among other factors.

“As much as a doctor knows the science behind the treatment, they may not be as knowledgeable about other patient needs,” Sharma says. Navigation team members include a spectrum of individuals who, through their roles, “are changing the outcomes for cancer patients.”

Coordinating care, expediting appointments and providing patient education are among key roles, says Lauren Bodnar, one of seven Parkview oncology nurse navigators trained according to American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) guidelines. 

“First and foremost, we are advocates,” Bodnar says. Nurse navigators attend the multidisciplinary tumor board meetings where individual cases are reviewed, communicating the information to patients.

Parkview’s oncology nurse navigators “are tumor site-specific,” explains Tracy Busch, navigator for colorectal and other lower GI cancers. Her targeted focus gives her an edge in clinical knowledge and familiarity with specialists and treatment protocols. 

The Parkview navigation team also includes three oncology social workers, two dietitians and a financial specialist. Team members work closely with outside agencies such as the American Cancer Society and Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana to address barriers to care. The goal is to have 11 oncology nurse navigators by the time Parkview’s new cancer center opens in 2018.

Parkview Cancer Institute

Owner(s): Dr. Neil Sharma, President; Scott James, COO; Mike Packnett, President of Parkview Health

Address: On the campus of Parkview Regional Medical Center


Products & Services: Full spectrum of cancer screenings and diagnostic testing; inpatient and outpatient oncology services; ambulatory infusion clinic; endoscopic oncology clinic; cancer registry; genetic counseling; CyberKnife; clinical trials; and support services for patients and families, including: patient navigation services, nutritional counseling, psychosocial counseling and support group.

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