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HL20: Sharon Gentry, RN, MSN, AOCN, CBCN—Mapping a Course for Each Oncology Patient

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media, December 13, 2012

After decades as an oncology nurse, Gentry had just completed her master's degree in education from nursing school when the cancer center asked if she'd be willing to give nurse navigation a try. She jumped at the chance. Her first challenge was trying to figure out how to eliminate the "bumps in the road" that patients encountered as they entered and moved through the health system.

"If that patient identifies a barrier to care or a not-pleasant experience, as navigators we need to hear that," Gentry says. "I've been very fortunate to work in a system that listens to the feedback of the patient."

For example, she discovered that women in Winston-Salem were resistant to having mammograms done at the hospital, so they have kept open the mammography center a mile down the street and Gentry meets with patients at both facilities.

Gentry has been working to smooth patients' paths ever since. Her work starts as soon as a patient receives a breast cancer diagnosis. She not only teaches patients about the specifics of their type of breast cancer, but also walks them through the entire treatment process, explaining which specialists they'll see and what kinds of things they'll discuss.

But navigation goes beyond simply guiding patients through treatment. As a navigator, Gentry also understands that there's more to a patient than simply her disease.

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