Patients usually confront bountiful uncertainty following a cancer diagnosis. A lot of information is thrown at them, and it can be overwhelming learning and keeping track of it all. A couple years ago, Memorial Healthcare introduced a new position to help patients – and even physicians – sort through it all.
Amber Eickholt is Nurse Navigator at Memorial Cancer Center. Her primary objective as Nurse Navigator is to help patients through what is likely the most difficult part of their lives.
“It can be terrifying when you find out you might have cancer and it can help to have somebody there who can explain what’s going on, what the next steps are, and help answer any questions you have,” she says.
Amber covers quite the spectrum of responsibilities in her role. She meets with patients (whether before or after referral to Memorial), provides needed education, explains proposed treatment plans, and sets expectations. She can even come along to chemo infusions and monitor home chemotherapies. Her goal is to support the patient any way she can.
A major overall duty in this position is quelling uncertainty. Many patients in their journey experience circumstances where they aren’t quite sure what’s happening and if they should call their physician about it. That’s where Amber steps in.
“If there’s a point you feel like you need to come in and see a physician but not quite sure, you can call me and I’ll help figure it out,” she says.
A Nurse Navigator is a position that not every hospital employs. Having one provides the patient additional help behind the scenes guiding them and answering questions. It ensures someone is always looking out for them. Nothing becomes lost in the shuffle this way.
“I treat all my patients like family,” Amber says. “I know what’s going on and where they’re going. It’s important to do that for patients.”
Amber fondly recalls an instance with an older gentleman who needed assistance traveling to appointments since he lived kind of far. She made sure a shuttle picked him up to take him to appointments, whether they were in Owosso, Flint, or Lansing. He called often, making sure he knew what to do at home and what was required next.
“He told me everything the physicians told him, to make sure I knew what was going on,” she says. “He constantly asked my opinion on everything. It was really great when he made it all the way through treatment. We really became connected. He’s doing well now and that’s exciting.”Amber’s entire job is centered on being there for the patients. Her goal is to eliminate confusion and guide the patient through their path.
The Nurse Navigator role is also helpful on the physician side. Amber also works with physicians in determining how to handle a patient’s case. Sometimes this includes referring a patient out for additional testing, then bringing them back for treatment. Amber encourages physicians to reach out whenever there is suspicion a patient might have cancer.
“We can make sure those patients get the care they need while communicating effectively and closely with you,” she says.
She’s also capable of talking with the patient about their diagnosis. She often calls and talks to patients about test results and helps them all the way through from treatment to survivorship.
Amber provides knowledge and guidance. She strives to ensure the patient knows what’s happening. She is the beacon, the adroit navigator through uncertain waters.
“We care about every one of our patients,” she says. “I want to make sure they get the best care they can.”