Nurse Navigators: Helping Patients Focus on Healing

Nurse Navigators: Helping Patients Focus on Healing

When Teri Sabo prepares to meet with Breast Cancer patients for the first time, she knows diagnosis and treatment may be only a small part of what they will discuss. Patients’ personal lives and circumstances always extend deeper and wider than their diagnoses.

As an Oncology Nurse Navigator at CHI St. Joseph Health Cancer Center, Sabo’s role is to help address these concerns, giving patients the tools, information and resources they need to focus their time and energy on healing.

“St. Joseph has always prioritized caring for the mind, body and spirit of all patients,” said Sabo. “Doing that means meeting each person where their needs are and giving them the best and most excellent care possible.”

Diagnosed patients bring many worries through the doors of our Cancer Center, from concerns over how they will afford their care to how they will manage other responsibilities while also pursuing their cancer treatment.

This is where Sabo, who is connected to vast resources inside and outside the Cancer Center, begins to work with patients, helping to remove barriers to care so patients can achieve their best outcomes.

A Vital Member of the Medical Team

Working one-on-one with our two Cancer Center navigators – Mammography Technologist, Certified MammaCare Specialist and Breast Health Navigator Elizabeth Freeman and Sabo – brings many benefits for patients.

As patients of our Cancer Center, the region’s only American College of Surgeons National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers Breast Center of Excellence, newly-diagnosed patients are always linked to full navigation services by a specially trained nurse who also serves as a vital part of the center’s medical team.

Our adherence to evidence-based standards centered on quality means every specialist on the center’s medical team touches each individual case on a weekly basis, providing well-rounded input on every patient’s treatment and care. Our navigators, who serve as advocates during these review conferences, are also a valuable source of information for patients.

Our navigators, who are specially trained and have many years of combined experience in cancer diagnostics and treatment, also coordinate care with patients’ primary care physicians and specialists, schedule appointments and help keep patients on track with screenings, treatments and long-term monitoring.

“I’m available to go to each medical office visit with our patients and try to attend all of them, if the patient would like to have me there,” said Sabo. “I also talk to patients if, for example, they call back after an appointment, requesting clarification.”

With many specialists involved, patients can often feel as though they’re getting bit and pieces of information that can be difficult to follow. With access to our doctors’ notes, Sabo can help pull this information together into plain language our patients can understand.

Hands-on Navigation at Every Stage

While Sabo serves as a point of contact for patients after they’ve received a Breast Cancer diagnosis, Freeman serves as their resource throughout their screening and diagnosis.

Often, the scariest part of a patient’s Breast Cancer journey can be the biopsy procedure, and the period after that when patients are awaiting their results.

Freeman walks patients through and attends biopsy procedures, letting patients know what to expect and scheduling face-to-face appointments to deliver biopsy results.

“We’re focused on finding ways to make the process of receiving results easier for patients,” said Sabo. “Feedback tells us that it’s easier for patients to hear these results in person from a doctor they know and trust most – usually their primary care physician.”

After diagnosis, Sabo’s involvement extends beyond the end of patients’ treatment, when she provides surveillance or survivorship plans to ensure patients complete ongoing screenings, make important lifestyle changes and avoid complications following their treatment.

Our cancer center team and navigators are ready to help patients and their families, with compassionate care and support throughout their treatment process.

For more information on our Cancer Center, please visit or call 979.774.0808.