Cancer care coordination

Cancer care coordinators are experienced registered nurses who are critical members of the care team. They are available to you and your family from diagnosis through treatment and on to healing. It is their goal to ensure that you understand every step of this process and receive the best care possible. 

The role of the cancer care coordinator involves:

  • working closely with various doctors’ offices to speed up scheduling of appointments
  • ensuring that appropriate work-up and staging of a patient’s disease are completed in a timely manner
  • providing ongoing support and education to patients and their caregivers
  • educating patients about available support programs and services, including integrative health therapies and palliative care services
  • follow-up treatment coordination and survivorship visits, including cancer rehabilitation referrals

The following video covers one of the essential components of cancer care at the Virginia Piper Cancer Institute: care coordination.

Connie Fiebiger, RN, director of clinical programs, Virginia Piper Cancer Institute: The cancer care coordinator is a registered nurse who is experienced in cancer and understands the impact that that has on patients and their loved ones. 

As you can imagine, a diagnosis of cancer is very overwhelming and anxiety provoking. And our health care system is very difficult to navigate at times. Cancer patients have a lot of questions that they are looking for answers to and just kind of wondering what do I do next. And so the cancer care coordinator can help them through that process. 

Cancer care coordinators can assist the patient in making informed decisions about their treatment options.

The cancer care coordinator can help make connections to the different healthcare team members. So a patient may need to go to several different types of specialty physicians, it might be the medical oncologist, the surgeon, the radiation oncologist. And the care coordinator makes sure that the patient is getting to the right specialty physician in a timely manner. 

Part of that process is to make sure that the patient is also getting tests and procedures done prior to those appointments so that they're not wasting the patient's time .

The cancer care coordinator can help the patient get connected to cancer rehabilitation services through Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, as well as more integrative therapies through the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing. 

We know that survivorship begins at diagnosis and we want to make sure that the patient is accessing those types of services and programs in a timely manner. 

When we're caring for a cancer patient, were really caring for the whole family. So we like to include the patients loved one to make sure that the loved one also understands what's going on and can help to support them so that they can support the patient. 

The patient may be having concerns around their financial situation. They may have questions around their sexuality. They may be dealing with some concerns about their own mortality. They may be losing their hair and the impact that that has on their body image as well as self-esteem. So the cancer care coordinator can assist the patient in helping them to get connected to the right individuals or services, not only within Allina Health but also within the community. 

Our goal is that every cancer patient will have access to a cancer care coordinator. We are looking at having that cancer patient get connected at diagnosis. The most benefit that the care coordinator can add to that relationship with the patient is at the very beginning.

Nurse coordinators: Cancer support every step of the way

Melanie Hartman and Jill May, RN.

Melanie Hartman with her cancer nurse coordinator, Jill May, RN.

"It has been such a comfort to go to the nurse coordinator for every aspect of my treatment."

"My thoughts very often turn to how fortunate I am to have been in contact with my nurse coordinator. I consider myself to be blessed beyond imagining!"

"I want to thank the nurse coordinator for her kindness and support during my husband’s illness. I couldn’t have done it without her. I will always remember her kindness."

"I can’t tell you how grateful we were for the nurse coordinator’s care during such a difficult time. She was always there for us."

"I am grateful for the nurse coordinator’s gentle concern, and her availability to answer questions and give reassurance. I am grateful that the medical profession has people like her."

"All of us who know the nurse coordinator are so very lucky to have her in our lives when things seem dark and bleak. Thank you so much for everything."