Free Program in Wheat Ridge Helps Cancer Patients
October 23, 2008
Free program in Wheat Ridge helps cancer patients
Contributed by: Karen Groves/YourHub.com on 9/9/2008
When Ruth Ann Nickell moved to Colorado with her husband from Arizona in May after her husband accepted a new job, they had no idea within a week's time she would be battling breast cancer and he would be unemployed.
"By the end of June, my Cobra insurance ran out. We were researching food banks, and we have always been employed."
Nickell is one of many cancer patients, survivors and caregivers who now take advantage of a new free program at Exempla Lutheran Medical Center in Wheat Ridge called the Patient Navigator Program, which was designed to help patients 'navigate' their way through the health care system.
According to Nickell, it was a lifesaver.
"I know what it was like to get on the phone and start crying, saying, 'I have cancer,'" said Nickell, a Westminster resident.
A partnership between the hospital, the American Cancer Society and the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, the Patient Navigator Program in Wheat Ridge is at one of five sites in Colorado to offer this program.
Patient Navigator programs also exist at Boulder Community Hospital, University of Colorado Cancer Center, Exempla Lutheran in Denver; and Rose and St. Joseph medical centers in Denver.
ACS marketing specialist Lisa Bade said, "With a $10-million pledge from AstraZeneca, the plan is to develop at least 50 new Patient Navigator Program sites over a five-year period across the United States.
Katie Nattermann is the Patient Navigator at Exempla, Wheat Ridge, where she began helping patients three months ago. She is employed by ACS, but the program itself is funded by AstraZeneca.
"Patients may find out about this service from doctors, friends or nurses. It's hospital-based with a community focus," said Nattermann.
"Some people have extensive needs and need continual support, others may just want information like where to buy a wig or a prosthesis, or where to go to get a mammogram," Nattermann said.
Nattermann said her job is to offer support, information and resources. She said most calls or visits she gets are from patients who need financial assistance or transportation. She said she estimated she had seen or been in contact with at least 150 patients within the last three months.
Although Nattermann said most people she works with are low-income, underinsured or uninsured, others may have insurance, but can't afford the co-pays.
"This is when I try and help by finding a prescription or pharmaceutical program that may provide assistance."
Nattermann said much of what she does is find out where patients can go for support groups or where to find support at home. She scours Web sites and works with other Patient Navigators (there are a total of five including Nattermann in Colorado) to come up with helpful information.
"I have a lot of lists," she said.
"Sometimes a patient just wants someone to sit down and listen to them. People are grateful for a live person," she said.
"This job is a challenge, there is always research to be done, but the perspective you gain from the strength of the human spirit puts your life in perspective and helps you remember what's important."
Nickell had a mastectomy June 27, after getting an Anthiogen grant with Nattermann's help to help with finances. Nickell said, "When I'm feeling better, I want to participate in fundraising for this program."
Denise Black-Anderson, Director of the Cancer Service Line and Specialty services at Exempla Lutheran said, "This program reaches patients who are most in need of specialized services and support. It provides the critical link to local resources that will improve their outcomes and quality of life."
To call the Patient Navigator at Exempla Lutheran call 303-403--3609 or call 1-800-227-2345 to find resources. or visit www.cancer.org. The cancer resource network is within at Exempla Lutheran Medical Center at 8300 W. 38th Ave., Wheat Ridge.