The Versatility of Patient Navigation - YWCA of Lafayette
Patient navigation requires strong knowledge of the community and available resources, combined with compassion, patience, and creativity. Patient Navigators will tell you that no two clients are alike -- it is very important to hear the needs of your client, consider their priorities, and respect their unique backgrounds and experiences. This article from YWCA of Lafayette in Indiana highlights the challenges associated with navigating two clients: a single mother who works as a bartender and another who is a member of the local Amish community.
Client #1 is a 45-year-old single mom of a 14-year-old son, and grandmother to five grandchildren all under the age of 2. Working as a bartender, she has struggled for years to make ends meet. In February 2016, she was diagnosed with metastatic lobular carcinoma which had metastasized to her liver. Two to three times a week, she has to travel 67 miles round-trip to her treatment appointments. After beginning treatment, her oncologist said that she needed to stop working and take care of herself. As a single mom, that was really not an option, although her frequent appointments already reduced the amount of time she could work. YWCA staff were able to help her obtain assistance for a number of her needs: transportation costs (mileage assistance through our program, gas cards from the cancer center and Community Cancer Network); rent assistance from the Family Reach Foundation; food pantry assistance from Community Cancer Network; and counseling services arranged through IU Health for her and her son. Pain management soon became an issue for her as well, and she had difficulty describing her pain to her medical provider. Client #1 was ready to stop treatment and not return. The YWCA patient navigators were able to assist her with getting a second opinion from another oncologist, and she ended up switching over to the new provider. Client #1 is currently starting a different type of treatment and is returning to work part time. She is more relaxed and taking less pain medication on the new treatment, and she feels like she has good quality of life.
One of our partner clinics referred Client #2, an Amish woman, to our program to inquire about mastectomy products. We sent the clinic a brochure about our new bra and prosthesis boutique and they told Client #2 about us. She had one mastectomy bra, and it was 13 years old. She only wore it and the prosthesis to church so she could minimize its wear. We told her we could work with her to see if we had the right size for her. We also educated her about the importance of wearing the prosthesis all the time because of curving her spine due to uneven weight distribution on her chest. The YWCA patient navigator met Client #2 at the clinic to fit her, and brought a variety of sizes of bras and prosthesis for her to try. The navigator communicated to Client #2 that it was best to wear it all the time and educated her about prosthesis care. The navigator also gave Client #2 some brochures to share with others in her community, and let her know that the YWCA’s program can pay for annual exams. The client was very appreciative and wanted to be reassured that no one else needed the four bras we gave her. She also stated it would be hard to convince folks that they should call the YWCA because they would not want to take resources away from others who might need them more.