Nurse navigators help patients deal with medical issues step-by-step

Nurse navigators help patients deal with medical issues step-by-step

NEW ORLEANS – Navigating your way through any medical issue can be challenging to say the least.

Insurance, schedules and orders can be confusing and sometimes contradictory.

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Ann Watts will never forget the day that she was told she had cancer.

"And it's exactly what people say. It feels like you were punched in the gut, your head starts spinning, you really zone out. And I didn't hear much of what he had to say after that," Watts said.

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The shock of the news lingered into her next appointment, but this time Ashley Marks was there taking notes.

“Ashley was like this beautiful bridge between my family and everything at this hospital,” Watts said.

Marks serves as a nurse navigator who stays with patients every step of the way. She sets up appointments, deals with insurance companies, being with Watts during every treatment and always being available by phone.

"I had to be readmitted to the hospital three different times. One time I had blood clots in my arm. She came with the doctors and it was three of them standing there. But there was Ashley, and I knew it was bad news, but my sweet Ashley was there to help lessen the burden," Watts said.

The program is already seeing results. Shorter times between diagnosis and treatment, better adherence to care instructions and patients saying they feel more confident.

"If you're a hospital or medical facility you should care because you know that your patients are going to get the best possible care," said Marks, a registered nurse at Woman's Hospital in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

When Watts found out she was cancer free, Marks was right there to celebrate with her.

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"I really thought I would do backflips down the hall," Watts said with a smile.

Watts hopes other patients can have the same experience.

"I could not have made this journey without Ashley Marks," Watts said.

A patient navigation process is required for a hospital to receive special accreditation for cancer care. Woman’s Hospital has expanded the program to pregnancy and weight loss patients.