Cary awarded grant for new nurse navigator position
The Maine Cancer Foundation recently awarded three Maine hospitals $500,000 worth of grants to fund the creation of a “patient navigator” position to help patients receive the best possible care during what is likely one of the most stressful periods of their lives. Among those hospitals, Cary Medical Center in Caribou received $161,557 to fund the position for three years.
The full-time oncology nurse navigator will receive training and ultimately certification to assist low-income cancer patients in The County.
According to Bill Flagg, community relations and development director at Cary Medical Center, the hospital has already chosen Kaitlyn Umphrey, RN, to take on the position. Flagg said the hospital believes Umphrey, who is an oncology nurse with certifications in chemotherapy, is the perfect candidate for the new post.
“When a patient hears the word cancer,” Flagg said, “it changes their entire life. The navigator nurse has specific training in helping patients cope with their diagnosis as well as helping them understand that there are many options in approaching the cancer.”
The position involves not only helping patients seek the best options for care, but assisting with appointments, helping with travel arrangements, and seeking out grants and financial assistance.
“A lot of the other details, such as childcare and making appointments, can be overwhelming to patients who are so focused on their diagnosis,” Flagg said. “That’s where the navigator can help.”
Flagg said this is simply the first step in Cary’s plan to tackle rural oncology, or the treatment of tumors. He said that Chief Oncologist Allan Espinosa, MD, is “very much engaged” in the process of building a “model for rural oncology.”
“There are a lot of aspects to that plan,” the communications director said, “and one of them is patient navigation. Dr. Espinosa is really excited to have the resources to do this, and three years will give us time to develop that model that will work within his expectations of building a model for rural communities.”
Flagg said Espinosa came to The County from the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, which is among the leading cancer research centers in the nation, to help rural residents “address cancer when they’re hundreds and hundreds of miles away from a major cancer center,” and that he has made it a goal to network and be in constant communication with those larger centers.
The release from the Maine Cancer Foundation indicates that, after the three-year period, each hospital will have the option to “absorb the cost of the navigator position,” and Flagg said Cary fully intends to sustain the position moving forward.
Umphrey will have national certification at the end of this period, and Flagg said the hospital will “continue to write grants” and seek support in order to sustain the nurse navigator position on “a permanent basis.”
“The bottom line is that patients and their families are going to be the real beneficiary,” Flagg said. “Kaitlyn already does a little bit of this, but this grant will give her the opportunity to really focus on the navigator element. We’re really excited about that work over the next three years.”
Kaitlyn Umphrey, RN