Helping Breast Cancer Patients "Navigate" the System

September 30, 2013

As Mercy's new patient navigator, Gina Null, APN helps breast

cancer patients from detection to diagnosis to treatment.

A woman finds a lump in her breast. She’s anxious and worried and wants to know what to do next. Mercy is now able to offer an additional resource to help these patients. The patient health navigator provides a single-point of contact for everything from scheduling a mammogram to getting a biopsy to dealing with insurance.  

Gina Null, APN has more than 25 years of experience working with oncology patients.  Now she’s putting her knowledge to work guiding them through the often intimidating world of screening and diagnosis. Whether it’s a benign lump or malignant tumor, Null can walk them through the entire process and make sure they get the answers they need to put their mind at ease or the appointments they need to begin treatment as quickly as possible.

“As a nurse practitioner, I can help speed up the process by ordering mammograms and biopsies as well as performing clinical breast examinations,” said Null.  “Right now it’s not unheard of for it to take 3-4 weeks for a woman to get a diagnosis, that’s a long time to worry and wonder. It’s our goal to get them from screening to diagnosis in one week whenever possible.” 

A patient health navigator has many roles:

  • Serves as advocate for patients
  • Provides emotional support for the patient and their family
  • Explains options and answers questions to help them make informed decisions
  • Coordinates appointments with surgeons and oncologists
  • Clarifies medical terminology and provides educational materials
  • Assists with health insurance questions
  • Facilitates communication between specialists and the patients primary care provider

In addition, the patient health navigator can help women in need of a mammogram but without insurance tap into one of the many programs available to provide free screenings.

The patient health navigator also offers genetic counseling for women concerned about an increased likelihood of breast cancer due to family history or other risk factors. This includes counseling, an in-depth risk assessment and genetic testing if indicated.

The patient health navigator’s office is located in the mammography area of the Women’s Center inside the Mercy Medical Building (formerly Centers of Excellence).You can reach her with questions by calling the Mercy Breast Center at 479.314.5273.

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