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What is a patient navigator? Part V of our series

October 24, 2018

Stephanie Evans, R.N., BSN, MSN, Pancreas Patient Navigator

From cancer screening to diagnosis and treatment, these specially trained medical professionals guide you through the process. Our Patient Navigator series takes an in-depth look at a skilled group of caring people who support the award-winning cancer programs offered at NCH.

November is National Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, a time to raise the profile of pancreatic cancer. Meet Stephanie Evans, R.N., BSN, MSN, Pancreas Patient Navigator, who works with patients from diagnosis through surgery and follow-up visits.

How did you become a patient navigator?

When the Pancreas Center opened in 2009, I was asked to fill the patient navigator position because I had close to two decades of patient care experience. I feel blessed to be in this role as it has opened my eyes to the world of oncology. I am happy to help patients through the process of what comes next in their treatment.

What is your medical background?

I received my BSN, MSN, and FNP from Olivet Nazarene University and began my nursing career here at NCH in August, 1990. I worked at the medical/surgical bedside for 19 years before transitioning to the Pancreas Center.

How do you help patients who receive a pancreatic cancer diagnosis?

Through phone calls and emails, I answer questions from patients and after Dr. Malcolm Bilimoria discusses their surgery, I put together a surgery folder with information and sit with the patient and family to schedule their surgery and other appointments. I coordinate communication with the rest of the Pancreas Center team. I discuss important aspects of their care, such as nutrition, and I call them the day before surgery to see how they’re doing and to confirm their arrival time. Sometimes, patients can be overwhelmed, but they know that if they’re unsure about something, I am just a phone call away. I also run a patient support group that meets monthly.

How common is pancreatic cancer?

There are 55,000 new pancreatic cancer diagnoses each year in the United States.

What is one thing that reassures patients who receive a pancreatic cancer diagnosis?

Many patients are comforted when they hear that surgery is an option. This is a tear jerker for them, but it’s the best news they’ve heard. Do you have anyone in your family who has had a cancer diagnosis?

Yes, I have a sister who is a five-year survivor of cervical cancer and breast cancer. I come from a very large family. There are 14 of us and we all rallied around her to help her through her care. Family is so important when you’re faced with a disease like cancer.

Why do you think the role of patient navigator is an important one?

It gives patients a sense of security knowing that someone is there for them to coordinate their care. The patient navigator works together with the doctors and other team members. It relieves stress on patients because they’re able to count on our team to “do the driving.”

Can you share a satisfied patient story?

Last year, a patient came to us from another hospital where surgery had been scheduled and then canceled. Unfortunately, this patient was told that their tumor was inoperable. After seeking a second opinion at another large hospital, the patient underwent chemotherapy and radiation to shrink the tumor but was then told, after a CT scan, that the tumor was unable to be removed through surgery. It was recommended they undergo more chemotherapy. At that point, the patient heard about Dr. Bilimoria and the Pancreas Center here at NCH. Dr. Bilimoria discussed surgery options in detail with the patient and family and offered to do the Whipple procedure with NANOknife. The surgery was a success. The patient and family were in awe, and the family stated they were thankful NCH is here for many more patients like their loved one.

Pancreatic cancer progresses quickly. With any cancer, early diagnosis is critical. Seek medical attention early if you’re experiencing symptoms like itchiness, abdominal pain, dark-colored urine and/or jaundice. NCH offers advanced diagnostics to detect cancer, and first-rate cancer treatment and services, including the da Vinci® Surgical System and CyberKnife. Read more about the NCH Pancreas Care team, and call 847-483-9400 for a referral to a doctor specializing in pancreatic or hepatobiliary diseases.

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