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Proton Therapy
Proton Therapy Nurse Navigator Sara Soliman, RN

Proton therapy nurse navigator

The University of Kansas Cancer Center opened the region’s first Proton Therapy Center in April and began treating patients in late May. By providing proton therapy here, our cancer patients can remain closer to their home, family and much-needed support systems.

Our Proton Therapy Center provides nurse navigation to help guide patients, both young and old, through the treatment process. The cancer center has a team of disease-site-specific nurse navigators who are integral to the multidisciplinary care we provide. Our nurse navigators guide patients from their initial contact with the cancer center through early testing and appointments to assist with expediting the treatment planning process.

To learn more about the role of nurse navigator, we visited with Sara Grigery, RN, proton therapy nurse navigator at the cancer center.

Specialized nurse navigation

Our nurse navigators, who are nursing experts for a particular disease group, guide patients through initial testing and appointments, answer questions and provide emotional support. Their role includes:

  • Completing an assessment for each new patient to determine correct discipline(s) for consult
  • Determining what medical records (radiology, pathology) are needed for diagnosis and treatment planning to ensure the patient has meaningful consultation(s)
  • Assessing barriers to care for each patient and referring to our supportive care teams
  • Coordinating disease-site-specific tumor conferences

At our proton center, the nurse navigator is involved in treatment planning for patients who are about to receive proton therapy and who are receiving proton therapy. She communicates regularly with patients’ physicians and their nurses, therapists and other supportive care providers (financial advisers, social workers) to ensure the treatment plan is tailored to the specific needs of each patient.

  • As the nurse navigator for the Proton Therapy Center, I am the glue between the many parts that work together to get the patient through our doors and into proton treatment. My 17 years as a pediatric oncology nurse are invaluable as I work on-site at the Proton Therapy Center and am one of the first touchpoints for the patient and their family. I work behind the scenes to gather patient information and medical records, provide reassurance and comfort to the patient and their family and help the physicians understand what the patient needs. I cross multiple care settings to help connect patients to their treatment teams in a timely manner and link them with appropriate support services, such as social work and financial counselors, to help resolve barriers to care. Above all, my goal is to provide highly personalized and compassionate care to our patients and their families.

  • As one of the first touchpoints the patient and family meets, I try to reassure and comfort them because we understand that a cancer diagnosis–for anyone at any age–can be overwhelming. It’s an unfamiliar world of appointments, fears and questions, and my goal is to guide them through it all. I talk with patients and families and introduce them to The University of Kansas Cancer Center and Proton Therapy Center and the many resources we have available to ease this experience. If patients need lodging or travel assistance, we have a radiation oncology ambassador who helps coordinate that. If patients have questions about insurance or want to speak with a social worker, I help with all of that and more. I’m here to coordinate the patient’s care, setting up appointments and scheduling follow-ups, so they don’t have to. They may not see me at every visit, but I am a consistent presence for patients and families to rely on and turn to.

  • I am the single point of contact for coordination of care and collaboration between providers and teams for each patient receiving proton therapy or being considered for proton therapy. This helps ensure continuity of care, including a thorough understanding of how our patients are doing across all care areas, even if we see them through a telehealth visit.

  • For our referring physicians, I am a single point of contact who can provide information on our entire multidisciplinary team care approach. I can assess what their patient needs and help define how many providers and supportive service resources may be required. This ensures continuity of care and means our referring physician offices are not tasked with trying to reach out to inquire about individual resources. Within our cancer center, it’s team-specific, established and experienced. This is true for patients who are local or traveling from a distance or out of state. If the referral is a pediatric patient from outside the area, I help coordinate their chemotherapy care at Children’s Mercy, which is our pediatric cancer center partner. I make sure patients know when they need to return to see their physician and provide a care summary from Children’s Mercy and our cancer center. By closing this loop, I help ensure each patient receives the best and safest care.

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