We Are Living HOPE: Carolyn Cook, RN

What do you find yourself telling these ladies?
My involvement with breast patients actually begins before we know of a diagnosis. I track daily abnormal mammogram reports to ensure that follow-up appointments are scheduled in a timely fashion. When stereotactic biopsies are recommended, I am there for the patients during this stressful time. My role includes being a “communicator” during the process due to the position of the patient, dressing the biopsy site afterwards, applying a cool-pad, and post-biopsy discharge teaching the patient and a family member. These patients are always told the most important part of my job is to pray for a benign report, which has always been welcomed!

Carolyn quoteWhat exactly do you do when you get a report that someone has been diagnosed with breast cancer? Tell us about your role with these ladies.
Out of respect for our physicians, I never give pathology results (good or bad) to patients. As soon as the panel results are finalized from pathology, I place each case on our list for discussion at our weekly Tumor Conference. I tell our patients this is like getting a room full of “second opinions." All attending physicians (medical oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, radiation oncologists, surgeons, breast health nurse navigator, tumor registrar, Women’s Lifecare Diagnostic Services supervisor, Director of the Cancer Care Institute of Carolina) have input to help determine the best possible care for each patient, whether it be surgery and/or a treatment plan. If the surgeon is unable to attend, I present the breast cases at the Tumor Conference. I then relay recommendations from the Tumor Conference to the surgeon. If further surgery is recommended, I meet with the patient in my office prior to surgery to inform them of what to expect and answer questions. At this time, drain-care teaching is done if a mastectomy is scheduled. The patient is also referred to the boutique for a post-surgical camisole fitting. Each patient deserves every advantage to make recovery easier. The camisoles, complete with drain pouches, make it safer and more convenient for post-op care.

The morning of surgery, I attend sentinel lymph node injections and wire localizations with the patients. These stressful procedures can be eased with support. Patients are given a pillow from our hospital for post-op use: 1) to splint when coughing and/or sneezing 2) when traveling the chest seatbelt is pulled across the pillow, not the surgical dressing, for comfort, and 3) to elevate the arm. An education packet is given to each patient along with my contact information. If the patient stays overnight, I make a post-op visit while the patient is still admitted to assure understanding of the drain care, and assist with any questions or concerns by the patient or family.

What is the most rewarding part about your job as the Breast Health Nurse Navigator?
I love offering hope, encouragement, and compassion to our breast patients. Sometimes these patients receive bad news and are overwhelmed trying to take in everything. The opportunity to be there for them and their family members is such a blessing. Many times they need me to just listen as they speak from their heart. I try to treat each patient as I would want to be treated if our roles were reversed – with the dignity and respect they deserve.

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Aiken Regional Medical Centers is owned and operated by a subsidiary of Universal Health Services, Inc.(UHS), a King of Prussia, PA-based company, that is one of the largest healthcare management companies in the nation.          

Aiken Regional Medical Centers

302 University Parkway
Aiken, SC 29801

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