A breast cancer diagnosis can leave patients experiencing many different emotions. Some patients are in shock after receiving the initial news, quickly followed by anxiety about treatment options and decisions to be made about the plan of care. This can be a very challenging situation for patients as they start processing everything that is happening, and about to happen.
In June 2019, North York General Hospital’s (NYGH) Breast Cancer Care Integrated Care Collaborative (ICC) Program was recognized with the 3M Health Care Quality Team Award (Across a Health System) from the Canadian College of Health Leaders and 3M Canada Company. This program was developed through extensive consultation with a passionate team of 40 health care professionals and patient advisors to ensure every step of the care journey is not only seamless, but that patients feel compassion and well cared for at all times.
The ICC experience is unique to NYGH and provides a one-step referral service, so patients can rapidly access specialized care offered at the hospital. Better communication between care providers across different hospital departments ensures tests and treatments are scheduled within the shortest time frame possible. Every patient’s case is reviewed in a collaborative manner with health care providers from several disciplines, to confirm the correct diagnosis has been made and best treatment plan put forward.
Most importantly, all patients and families have access to a patient navigator – a nurse who is a dedicated contact and resource throughout the entire patient care journey.
“As the Patient Navigator, I provide immediate support to patients and guide them throughout their care journey,” says Paulina Ferreira. “I get to know each patient’s story and aspects of their treatment, which helps build a trusting relationship whereby they can turn to me for support and answers at any time.”
Most patients start their care journey in NYGH’s BMO Breast Diagnostic Clinic (BDC). Here, they meet and speak with their surgeon and Kim Wagner, a Nurse Coordinator at the BDC. Following this initial appointment, patients receive a follow-up phone call from Paulina, which is the first of many conversations patients, family, and/or loved ones can have with her as she is always reachable either by phone or email.
Newly Diagnosed Class
The first phone call with Paulina is an opportunity to review information from the first appointment and to ask questions. Patients, family and/or loved ones are also encouraged to attend the Newly Diagnosed Class, which is offered every Tuesday from 11 a. m. to 12 noon. This class is one of the features that sets NYGH’s Breast Cancer Program apart and has been designed with flexibility in mind so that patients/families can drop-in any Tuesday. Patients can meet a peer support specialist (cancer survivor), listen and ask questions about treatment options, prepare for surgery, learn what to expect after surgery and psycho-social aspects of a cancer diagnosis.
If patients prefer, an individual appointment with Paulina or a peer support specialist can be arranged.
“We recognized that patients with breast cancer are going through a roller coaster of emotions, which is why it’s so important that patients feel they can turn to the patient navigator to answer questions and receive support/guidance as needed,” says Paulina. “As the Patient Navigator, I’m very fortunate to work with an amazing team where our goal is to help patients get through this life changing event. Putting our patients first in everything we do means we are here for our patients every step of their journey.”