Why is a Patient Navigator So Important for Colorectal Cancer Patients?

Amanda Picicci, R.N., Former Patient Navigator for Columbia's Division of Colon and Rectal Surgery, explains the importance of Patient Navigation. 

Question: What is a Patient Navigator?

Picicci: We strive to make the patient and their family feel supported on every level. Navigating through the medical system can be complex, and we're there to provide step-by-step assistance and hopefully the patients feel that from their very first phone call, we're there to support them and advocate for them from day one. 

Question: What is a typical day like?

Picicci: On a typical day we reach out to new patients who are scheduled for an appointment with us. We'll walk them through the process, what to expect at their first appointment, answer any questions they have, help facilitate medical documentation and paper work, which is very important, and make sure we have everything for that first appointment. We'll also follow up with all my patients in treatment, make sure they don't have any questions or concerns, offer support, refer them to supportive services, and actually accompany patients who are starting radiation or chemo to their first appointment. It can be very daunting, that initial appointment, so to be there with them and walk them through that is important. We also visit patients after surgery while they're inpatient, check in on them, make sure they're doing well, healing well, walking, and moving around. We also attend biweekly tumor board where we present all our oncology patients to a multidisciplinary team. 

Question: What's unique about Columbia's Program?

What's unique to our program is that the patient navigator is devoted entirely to colorectal patients and their families, not only on the medical level but on the emotional level. Navigating through the system is confusing, it's overwhelming, and to be with them and provide a continuity of care to our patients throughout the entire process, treatment recovery and afterwards, to be that point of contact is really unique and special. 

Question: What is the best part of your job?

Picicci: A happy satisfied patient is the most fulfilling part of my job, especially seeing patients go through a cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery, and seeing them get back to their everyday lives, and if I was able to help make that a little bit easier in any way, it's all worth it.