Receiving a prostate cancer diagnosis can be equal parts scary and overwhelming. Our goal at GBU is to help patients every step of the way, which is why we have a full-time nurse navigator on staff. Her name is Marie E. Albert, RN, and she's based out of our Dedham Care Center.
Below, we take a deeper dive into the work Marie does for prostate cancer patients within Greater Boston Urology.
What is a nurse navigator?
Nurse navigators serve as champions and advocates for their patients. At GBU, Marie works tirelessly on behalf of our prostate cancer patients and their families by providing end-to-end care, coordinating the services patients need, and offering a comforting shoulder for patients and their loved ones to lean on.
Marie follows the patient from initial prostate cancer diagnosis through the continuum of the disease. She facilitates whatever the patient needs, whether that's coordinating labs and X-rays, providing help and guidance about medications, or offering emotional support.
"If I had to sum it up," Marie says, "our job is to provide guidance and support to patients and caregivers while working as a liaison between them and the patient's medical team. This involves directing the right services to the right place at the right time."
The patient's caregiver is a big priority for Marie, too. "The caregiver takes care of the patient," Marie explains. "So by supporting the caregiver, I feel the patient is taken care of equally as well. It's like a domino effect."
Do nurse navigators undergo special training?
Marie did. In addition to her training as a registered nurse, Marie pursued specialized training to become a nurse navigator. She completed a nurse navigator certification program through Harold P. Freeman Patient Navigation Institute in New York.
Does GBU's nurse navigator meet with patients in person or via phone/telehealth—or both?
Marie sees GBU patients and their caregivers in person in our Dedham Care Center, which is also where our Advanced Prostate Cancer Center is located.
Marie also remains in regular contact with patients via phone. "I do touch points with them often," she says. "And they do touch points with me because I feel that's important. I always say to them, 'You're not alone. I will take this journey with you. You can call me anytime. And if you don't get me live, I'll call you back quickly." Marie also makes the same offer to the patient's caregiver (and Marie says it's quite common for caregivers to take her up on it).
During in-person visits, Marie will remain in the room while the patient speaks to their physician (like Dr. Michael J. Curran ). Then, she stays behind after the doctor leaves so that she can answer any and all questions. Spending extra time with patients is important because patients need time to digest everything they heard. Marie makes herself available before and after appointments—as well as any time via phone.
Marie says, "I had a gentleman come in the other day, and I asked him to come in a half hour early and to bring his daughter with him. I wrote out a plan for him—for taking his medication. And then I did a little quiz with him to make sure he understood, because it's a little complicated sometimes. I mean, if you're faced with cancer, and now you have all this information coming at you, it can be overwhelming. I said to him, 'I'll call you every day for the next week. And you can tell me when you took your medication.' Then, I gave him my cell phone number and I said, 'If you should wake up and you have an issue or a concern, and you're not sure what to do with the medication, I want you to call me, and we'll work it out together.' The most important feeling when they leave is for them to know that they're not alone and that they have an adjunct and a synergy to their treatment plan with the nurse navigator."
Does insurance cover visits with a nurse navigator?
Visits to the office are covered by insurance. But insurance doesn't cover all the additional work that Marie provides. Instead, Greater Boston Urology makes this investment and covers the costs since the GBU leadership understands how critical a nurse navigator can be to a prostate cancer patient's care. (Note: Marie works closely with all GBU physicians throughout the practice and appreciates their support.)
Marie says she's grateful to GBU for providing this service to patients so that she can give patients and their loved ones the time and attention that they need. Marie adds, "I would honestly say that's what I hear the most from patients—they are always thanking me and Dr. Curran for the time we spend with them."
She is also grateful for physicians like Dr. Curran who give her the support to do what needs to be done. "'Whatever the patient needs, Marie'—that's Dr. Curran's attitude, which synergizes quite well with me, because sometimes you do have to go out on a limb. Sometimes you have to stay late. Sometimes you have to walk patients out to the car and help them put their seatbelt on. Sometimes you have to do those things, but it's what I would want done for me."
What does Marie love most about her work as GBU's nurse navigator?
Marie says she loves everything about her job because the position itself is incredibly rewarding. One of her goals is to make sure a wider audience understands what nurse navigators do and the key role they play in patient care.
Marie says she also reminds everyone on the medical side that they need to meet the patients and their caregivers where they are and to work from there. For example, for older patients who are in their late eighties or early nineties, not all of them will have an email address. So while it might sound easy to simply say "Email us this info," it might not be easy for the patient—snail mail might be the better way.
Marie adds that it’s also important to not identify a patient by their disease—e.g., a prostate cancer patient—but instead to see the individual first. "Always see the patient first and meet them where they are," she says.
Learn more about GBU's approach to prostate cancer.
We're here to help patients and their families navigate prostate cancer, from the initial diagnosis to the follow-up treatment plan. Learn more about our approach to prostate cancer or request an appointment with one of our urologists