Almost two years ago, Midland Memorial Hospital hired Charliss Rodgers, RN, as the first nurse navigator in their breast program at the Allison Women’s Imaging center.
Not every nurse navigator role is the same, according to Rodgers.”In our center, I am usually the first one to meet with our patients after an abnormality is discovered on their diagnostic exam,” she said.
During the initial consult, Rodgers and the radiologist show the patient the images, explain the mammogram findings and offer the appropriate follow-up care. Rodgers can schedule a biopsy within 24 to 48 hours, get the pathology report back within 24 to 48 hours of the biopsy and set up a surgeon’s visit. Timing is everything because no one wants to wait once she hears about an abnormal mammogram, Rodgers said.
Rodgers offers something else to the patients she sees. She is a breast cancer survivor, who was treated with radiation and chemotherapy and knows what it’s like to navigate the system alone. “I am always present during the biopsy, and patients sometimes want me to come with them to their physician appointments, while others text or call me when they are experiencing unusual symptoms,” Rodgers said. “And if in conversation, my patients learn that I am a breast cancer survivor, they find comfort and hope.”
Besides scheduling timely appointments and providing patients the support they need, Rodgers also sees her role as an educator as crucial to the process.
“Education is a powerful tool, and it begins the minute we discuss the recommendation of a biopsy and continues through survivorship,” Rodgers said.
Recently, the National Quality Measures for Breast Centers program recognized AWI as a quality breast center of excellence. AWI is the only breast imaging center in the Permian Basin and one of the three centers in the state of Texas with this distinguished recognition.
Besides patient navigation, the center offers screening and diagnostic mammography procedures, interventional procedures to include needle localizations and biopsies under stereotactic, ultrasound and MRI guidance, and breast MRI.