Guid­ing, coun­sel­ing can­cer pa­tients all along the way

SHARON COS­GROVE Breast health nurse nav­i­ga­tor Spar­row Can­cer Cen­ter | Lans­ing, Mich.

Modern Healthcare - - NEWS - By Maria Castel­lucci

Sharon Cos­grove plays many roles in her po­si­tion as breast health nurse nav­i­ga­tor at the Spar­row Can­cer Cen­ter in Lans­ing, Mich. One day, Cos­grove is a case man­ager, en­sur­ing her pa­tients un­der­stand their de­tailed treat­ment plans and are get­ting all the ap­pro­pri­ate tests.

An­other day, she is an event plan­ner, cre­at­ing pre­sen­ta­tions and ar­rang­ing for speak­ers or ven­dors in the com­mu­nity to at­tend bi­monthly events on breast health.

But most days, Cos­grove is like a so­cial worker. “I do a lot of coun­sel­ing,” she says. “I al­ways say I should go back and get my so­cial work de­gree.” Cos­grove in­ter­acts with Spar­row’s breast can­cer pa­tients when they re­ceive their ini­tial biopsy test, and as a re­sult she of­ten con­soles pa­tients and their fam­i­lies through­out treat­ment.

Cos­grove, 54, is Spar­row’s first and cur­rently only breast can­cer nav­i­ga­tor, a pro­gram she has man­aged for four years. As nav­i­ga­tor, Cos­grove’s main task is to en­sure pa­tients keep pro­gress­ing through their treat­ment plans. For her achieve­ments, Cos­grove is this year’s win­ner of the Ex­cel­lence in Nurs­ing Award for unit or depart­ment-level nurse lead­ers with ex­ten­sive pa­tient con­tact.

When a new pa­tient is ad­mit­ted, she im­me­di­ately un­der­goes a biopsy test. If the re­sults are neg­a­tive or be­nign, Cos­grove calls pa­tients soon af­ter with the good news. “It’s sleep­less nights any­time you’re wait­ing for re­sults.” Cos­grove was di­ag­nosed with lym­phoma 20 years ago when she was preg­nant with her third child, so she can re­late to the anx­i­ety.

If the biopsy re­sults show can­cer, Cos­grove in­forms pa­tients in-per­son when they re­turn to the clinic for their manda­tory fol­low-up ap­point­ment. Within days, Cos­grove and a team of physicians in­clud­ing a ra­di­ol­o­gist, pathol­o­gist and med­i­cal on­col­o­gist eval­u­ate the pa­tient’s re­sults and cre­ate a de­tailed treat­ment plan. The team, along with Cos­grove, dis­cusses the plan with the pa­tient and an­swers any ques­tions. From that point for­ward, Cos­grove’s main task is to make sure ev­ery­thing in the pa­tient’s plan hap­pens in a timely man­ner.

Cos­grove’s ef­forts have re­duced pa­tients’ wait time from di­ag­no­sis to treat­ment, and in­creased the num­ber of breast can­cer pa­tients now treated at the clinic. In 2012, the wait time from mam­mo­gram to surgery was 50 days. Pa­tients are now un­der­go­ing surgery seven to 21 days af­ter hav­ing a mam­mo­gram. Be­fore Cos­grove ar­rived, the clinic saw 30 to 40 breast can­cer pa­tients a year. In 2015, more than 150 pa­tients were treated.

“With this pro­gram, we’re get­ting the pa­tients to treat­ment ear­lier and we’re cut­ting down on anx­i­ety time.”

Her po­si­tion has been so suc­cess­ful and em­braced by pa­tients that the pro­gram has since ex­panded. Spar­row now has a nav­i­ga­tor for prostate, col­orec­tal and lung can­cers.

Dan Phillips, ad­min­is­tra­tive di­rec­tor of the Spar­row Can­cer Cen­ter, said a ma­jor part of the pro­gram’s suc­cess is Cos­grove.

“She is so pas­sion­ate, so de­tail-ori­ented and so con­cerned that the pa­tients are well taken care of,” Phillips said. “She just puts her­self in the pa­tient’s shoes.”

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