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EJGH Sets National Standard in Cancer Care

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Four years ago, East Jefferson General Hospital transformed the experience of cancer patients in our region by introducing the Cancer Navigator program. A Cancer Navigator works with cancer patients, and their families, from the time of diagnosis until survivorship is achieved. They help coordinate patient treatment schedules, support groups and assist in every aspect of care so the patient has a one-on-one resource throughout their cancer journey.

cancer navigators

Debbie Schmitz was named EJGH’s first navigator a role she took and helped redefine over the past four years. “I work with both the physicians and the patients to ensure that every effort is made to remove the mystery and give the patient the information they need to play a positive role in their own treatment. I love my job. I love the fact that every day we all work together creating new survivors.”

The Cancer Navigator model has proved so successful, it’s being endorsed by prestigious groups such as the American Cancer Society and the Hospital Advisory Board. In fact, The Commission on Cancer, the accrediting body that approves cancer programs has declared that ALL accredited programs MUST adopt the navigator model and that model must be instituted by 2015.

Earlier this year, EJGH once again established itself at the forefront of patient-centric care when it established Site-Specific Navigators to assist cancer patients. Now, there are navigators concentrating on cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, colon, and more. These navigators are all long-time nurses whose backgrounds have given them the unique skill sets required to be an effective liaison between the patient and multiple physicians or care providers.

Mattie Hobley is Director of Oncology Services at EJGH. She has long been an advocate for this more personalized approach to patient care, “Nothing is more frightening than a cancer diagnosis. The navigator’s role is to explain and simplify things so all the patient needs to concentrate on is getting well.” She goes on to explain the role in more specific terms, “Patients may undergo a series of treatments and diagnostic tests in a variety of locations over a long period of time. The navigator will make sure all that takes place seamlessly and removes the mystery from the process so the patient and their family know exactly what is happening at every step of the journey.”

EJGH now has four navigators. These dedicated professionals serve as nurses, confidants, friends,s, and advisors to their patients. It is a unique role that has proved to be extremely effective in helping patients win their battle with cancer. The EJGH navigators are:

In the past four years, EJGH has done a great deal to enhance cancer care in this region. The first and perhaps boldest step was becoming an MD Anderson affiliate hospital. Affiliation means that EJGH physicians who become credentialed members of the MD Anderson Physicians Network gain access to the treatment protocols developed and used at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston Texas. As part of the affiliation, EJGH shares its outcomes and data with MD Anderson for review to ensure that EJGH patients are receiving the best care possible. Another key development in cancer care has been the development of the navigator program which is now being embraced by hospitals throughout the nation and copied even within our own region to varying degrees. The final development has been the Capital Campaign currently being conducted by the EJGH Foundation to raise the funds needed to enlarge EJGH ‘s infusion center. Once completed, the new infusion center will accommodate twice as many patients and do so in a manner that will be much more comfortable for patients and their guests.

For more on the capital campaign, go to