Nurse Practitioners Guide Patients through the Cancer Journey

Organization: Service: Story Topics:
Cancer, Breast Cancer, Lung Cancer, Ovarian Cancer

Nurse practitioners can assess, diagnose, prescribe and treat a patient similar to a physician. At the MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute (TCI) at Long Beach Medical Center, a team of Nurse Practitioners - Nurse Navigators (NPNN) cover the entire spectrum of cancer to provide support to patients throughout their cancer journey. NPNNs approach the patient’s treatment plan through a holistic lens with a focus on the patient’s overall well-being.

At TCI, each NPNN specializes in a specific area of cancer. Unique to a cancer center, their narrow focus allows them to provide the highest level of expertise to their patients.

From the time a patient is diagnosed with cancer, NPNNs follow the patient through survivorship, palliative care or even hospice care.

Battling cancer is an emotional journey, not only for the patient but for their family as well. NPNNs help bridge the gap from medical care to personal and emotional care.

“I like to call NPNNs ‘Gap Fillers,’” says Nicol Hedgpeth, director, Clinic Operations, MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute, Long Beach Medical Center. “It’s the NPNN’s job to fill in the gap between the patient’s lifestyle and the physician’s recommended treatment plan.”

Depending on how extensive the patient’s treatment plan, the more important it is for the NPNN to be involved in their care. When a physician prescribes a patient to undergo radiation, chemotherapy or other treatment options it can be overwhelming.

It’s easy for a patient to fall behind on their treatment plan when they are juggling their daily routine and trying to take care of themselves and their families. The NPNN meets with the patient, family, physicians, registered nurses (RN) and other members of the care team to oversee their care and ensure the patient’s medical and emotional needs are being met.

Meet the NPNN Team:

Stacy Byone (Hematology)

“I encourage everyone if they see any abnormal bleeding or anything unusual to get it checked-out by a doctor. Even if people don’t see anything out of the ordinary, get regular check-ups with your doctor to make sure everything is working the way it’s supposed to.”

Nicol Hedgpeth (Brain)

“There really isn’t a way to prevent brain cancer, so I encourage people to live in the moment and engage in activities that promote health and wellness."

Dea Kurtovic (Head, Neck and Gastrointestinal)

“I would stress the importance of getting colonoscopies at an appropriate age and based on family history. Don’t ignore any symptoms that are out of the ordinary for you.”

Debbie Oates (Breast and Lung)

“I encourage people to stop smoking. Cancer doesn’t have to be a death sentence – hang in there, fight the good fight and stay strong. Lean on people that love you because they will always look out for your well-being.”

Mary Welch (Gynecology and lower half of the body)

“I highly recommend women receive their PAP Smears and get screened for cervical cancer. Early detection can be taken care of before an advanced cervical cancer develops.”