What is Nurse Navigator? An interview with Jaime and Andrea

Nurse navigation is a vital and meaningful part of a patients journey through cancer care at Sanford. We interviewed nurse navigators Andrea Mell and Jaime Heller to understand their roles and how impactful this program is for our patients. To learn more about how you can help support this program, visit sanfordhealthfoundation.org/edith.


Q: Explain your role as a Nurse Navigator.

A: “The nurse navigator provides support and help patients “navigate” their cancer diagnosis, treatment, and beyond. We take on many roles throughout the treatment trajectory which include, but are not limited to: coordinator, advocate, educator, and liaison. We continuously assess for barriers to care and help connect patients to resources to help eliminate these barriers. We also work with key individuals within the healthcare system to ensure timely access to care.” – Andrea Mell

Q: What is your favorite part about your job?

A: “My favorite part about my job is being able to help patients through a life changing diagnosis. We are one of the first contacts the patient has after being told they have cancer and being that go-to person for them providing education, explaining what happens next, setting them up with providers, and being a resource to them throughout treatment is really rewarding to me.” – Jaime Heller

“My favorite part of this job is being a trusted resource and constant support to my patients. They know that they can call me if they have questions, concerns, fears, or just need someone to listen. I am humbled that they allow me to become a part of their life when they are at their most vulnerable.” – Andrea Mell


Q: What does a typical day look like?

A: “As a nurse navigator we receive and review all new referrals to the Cancer Center whether it’s a Sanford patient or a referral from another facility. We review charts, call the patient, review notes with providers, provide education, and schedule patients for consults and imaging if needed. We coordinate care and communicate with multiple teams to provide quality care for each patient. We meet with patients in person and/or over the phone. We follow up with patients through treatment and are available for any questions or needs.” – Jaime Heller


Q: Nurse navigation is funded through philanthropy. How would you describe the importance of nurse navigation for oncology patients to current or potential donors?

A: “Nurse Navigators serve as a resource to their patients through each phase of care. We help patients understand their diagnosis and treatment options by answering their questions and directing them to reputable resources. This helps alleviate some of their anxiety and provides them with information that is current and evidence-based. Navigating a cancer diagnosis is scary in and of itself. Navigating a cancer diagnosis while fulfilling many other roles can be overwhelming and exhausting. Our patients have families, friends, co-workers, and are active members of the community in which they live.

Nurse Navigators can help provide resources to patients so that they can maintain their identity and overcome any barriers or challenges that a cancer diagnosis may bring – financial (time away from work, uninsured or underinsured), work, stress, role changes or reversals, routines, transportation and/or lodging concerns. Nurse Navigators are available to assist in the coordination of care (ie., appointments, scans, second opinions, transfers of care) so that the patient can focus on themselves and what matters most to them.

Nurse Navigators also help with access to quality care at a system level. We help to bring forward any barriers identified within the healthcare system that are preventing our patients from receiving timely access to care. We are continually working with key members of the healthcare organization to come up with solutions or ways to eliminate barriers through changes in practice, enhance communication amongst members within the healthcare team, as well as work to improve and develop processes that make a positive impact on patient care and satisfaction.” – Andrea Mell

nurse navigator Sanford health foundation
nurse navigator Sanford health foundation

Q: Why did you chose to become a Nurse Navigator?

A: “I chose nurse navigation because I wanted to be able to help others during their cancer journey. I have worked with cancer patients for many years and being in this role allows me to help them in a different way. We are able to ease some stress that comes with the diagnosis whether it’s coordinating appointments to limit travel or time being in the clinic or just being a listening ear. We are a resource to them the entire time. If they don’t know who to call, they know they can call us and we will help them with any needs.” – Jaime Heller


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