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This Is Why People Are So Grateful For Their Nurse Navigators

Maritza Chicas, RN, and Alyssa Pauls, RN, are longtime nurses whose passion for caring led them to become nurse navigators in Lehigh Valley Health Network’s cancer program. They share their experiences guiding people with cancer through every step of their journey, from treatment to recovery.

Maritza Chicas, RN, nurse navigator

So I’m home one day, and the TV is on. I look up, and I see a nurse navigator being interviewed on Univision. At the time I was already a nurse. But when I heard this nurse navigator’s story and how she helped people with cancer, I knew it’s what I had to do.

I looked online and saw Lehigh Valley Health Network was interviewing for a nurse navigator. That’s how it all began.

I’m fluent in English and Spanish. So when my patients have questions or concerns about their care, I’m just a call away, available in their language.

In the Latino culture, many people think whatever the doctor says goes. They don’t ask questions. So I educate them. I explain that you and your doctors are partners in your care and treatment plans, and I encourage them to ask questions.

People start their cancer journey angry and afraid. They fear the unknown. We talk with them, learn their needs. Do they have support at home? Can they afford care? Do they understand their treatment plan? We gain their trust, then we earn that trust by following through daily, weekly – whatever it takes.

Cancer is overwhelming. And it’s treatable. You’re not in this alone.

El cancer es preocupante. Y es tratable. Usted no está solo.

Alyssa Pauls, RN, nurse navigator

When you find out you have cancer, you feel like you’ve lost complete control. Not just over your health, but over your entire life.

I work primarily with lung cancer patients. They need a lot of care. I expedite their care, help schedule multiple appointments, and explain any tests or procedures.

When they come to us, they sit with an entire team (the Lung Cancer Multidisciplinary Team). It brings all their doctors – and me as their nurse navigator – together in one place. I make sure all of their questions are answered before they leave and that they understand the plan.

I tell people that I can’t change their disease, but I can help them cope better by providing education, support and a quick response to their concerns. It’s fascinating to see where you can help.

Sometimes a patient doesn’t want to ask for help. So I’ll call her. Or sometimes, their daughter or son calls me. I’ll talk with them. Then they’ll talk to their mom. They say “a little birdie told me this.” It helps us build the kind of relationships people need when they fight lung cancer.

I tell my patients to just take it one day, one hour, one minute at a time. We will get you through it. You aren’t walking alone.

Questions about Lung Cancer?

Learn about life-saving screening and treatment options in our free guide to Lung Cancer.