Fairview launches nurse navigator effort for abnormal mammograms

Kari Richter, RN, breast navigator, works one-on-one with patients, guiding them through the process, following an abnormal mammogram. She is pictured with Lori Orwoll who schedules appointments for the nurse navigator program at Fairview Lakes Medical Center in Wyoming. Photo by Jon Tatting
Kari Richter, RN, breast navigator, works one-on-one with patients, guiding them through the process, following an abnormal mammogram. She is pictured with Lori Orwoll who schedules appointments for the nurse navigator program at Fairview Lakes Medical Center in Wyoming. Photo by Jon Tatting

Fairview Lakes Medical Center in Wyoming is taking its relationship with patients to a new level when abnormal mammograms are discovered.

Through the center’s new nurse navigator program, a team in the oncology clinic is ready to take a proactive approach toward supporting and guiding both men and women through their journey with the threat of breast cancer.

Kari Richter is one of two registered nurse navigators now available to Fairview Lakes patients who have abnormal mammograms. She also serves as case manager and supervisor of the oncology clinic.

When someone has an abnormal mammogram, radiology notifies Richter or fellow breast navigator Wendy Cright who then contacts the patient’s primary doctor.

“I explain who I am and tell (the physician) that I’ll take it from here,” Richter explained.

From there, she works one-on-one with the patient, making sure appointments are scheduled and any questions are answered. She goes over a doctor-generated breast cancer checklist, which shows what steps need to be taken.

At this point, Richter noted, the breast navigator will address the tumor in question and any need for further radiology testing, MRI’s, lab testing and genetic testing or counseling — particularly if patients have a strong family history with the disease.

She will set up lymphedema therapy for people who have lymph nodes removed, which can cause uncomfortable swelling.

“As a precaution, we will measure arms and go over exercises they can do before surgery,” Richter said.

Breast navigators follow patients through the entire process, from keeping track of surgery dates to assuring doctor visits in mapping out a plan. And it’s been a positive experience thus far for the first six patients, since the program launched around two months ago.

“We’ve had great, great success,” Richter said. “It makes patients feel someone here cares about them. We go over what patients can expect because the unknown can be scary. We want to stress what a comfort it is for the patient. The program was a long time coming.”

Also of note is Fairview Lakes’ affiliation with the University of Minnesota, which enables the medical center to have access to all of the university’s resources.

“Being able to make connections with an individual right from time of diagnosis throughout their journey is significant in building a trusting relationship,” Jody Rick, RN, OCN, manager of North Region Cancer Centers for University of Minnesota Physicians Cancer Care, Fairview, said “It is exciting to have an integrated care team working together to provide services in their community without having to make our patients drive for their care.”

Breast care services

Bryan Gaffy, Fairview Lakes vice president of business development and support services, offered the following outline of the center’s breast care services in prevention/detection, treatment and support.

Prevention and early detection: Fairview Lakes offers imaging services accredited in breast care by the American College of Radiology to aid in early and accurate diagnosis. This includes both accredited mammography and stereotactic biopsy.

The medical center’s mammography department offers women warm flannel half-gowns, a private waiting area, and amenities like mints and flavored coffees to women who come in for a mammogram.

Fairview seeks to proactively encourage woman to have screening mammography. To make it easy to obtain, in addition to imaging services and extended mammography hours at Wyoming, mobile digital mammography is available at Fairview Clinics in Rush City and Chisago City.

If an abnormality is detected, a nurse navigator will reach out to the person to help guide them through appropriate referrals and process.

Treatment: University of Minnesota Physicians Cancer Care at Fairview provides services at the Lakes Cancer Clinic and UMPhysicians Radiation Therapy Center at Fairview Lakes Medical Center.

The medical center has board-certified cancer physicians who are on the forefront of cancer care. It provides most treatment options locally including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. (These services are available to all cancer patients, not only breast cancer.)

Patients have access to clinical trials at University of Minnesota Medical Center.

Fairview Lakes provides surgeons on site who care for patients with breast cancer. These include General Surgeon Maria Ocasio, MD, and Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon Kipton Lundquist, MD.

Multidisciplinary care is offered through a care team that treats the whole person through medical care, spiritual care, nutritional care, and other supportive services.

Support: The Fairview Foundation supports a fund that makes a special camisole available for the medical center’s breast cancer patients to wear following surgery, and provided at no charge to the patient. This program began with a special event held years ago at Tanger Outlet Mall in North Branch.

Fairview Lakes offers:

• The American Cancer Society “Look Good Feel Good” program for cancer patients.

• Compassionate providers.

• Nurse navigators to continue to answer questions, provide support and guide people through the process.

• A warm and welcoming environment in its clinical locations.

“All of this is provided locally without patients having to travel long distances,” Gaffy said.

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