Coordinators Guide Way for Cancer Patients

May 9, 2011

Specially trained Nurses Facilitate Treatments, Serve as Resource

When Sharon Warning of Appleton learned in February she had breast cancer, she was not only scared, but also overwhelmed. That’s when Kelly Krueger, one of ThedaCare’s new breast care coordinators, stepped in.

“It was an absolute nightmare (to learn I had cancer), but Kelly was so wonderful to work with. She kept reassuring me and answered all of my questions,” said Warning, who turns 70 in June and is now undergoing radiation to treat her cancer. “I don’t know what I would have done without her. She explained everything to me and let me know what the tests meant.”

Krueger and fellow breast care coordinator Frances Taylor Treder work directly with patients at the ThedaCare Breast Centers to help them navigate through what can be a complex and emotionally charged process. Patients may interact with up to 17 specialists. The care coordinators check to see when results are available, facilitate provider appointments, and answer questions. They also connect patients with a cosmetologist to address changes in appearance, with a dietitian to manage nutrition concerns, and with behavioral health resources.

“Providing emotional support is the most important thing we do. Studies have shown when you’re first diagnosed with cancer, that’s the most stressful time as you’re trying to figure out what will happen next,” Krueger said. “Breast cancer can be pretty complicated — there may be surgery, radiation, chemo. We walk beside the patient and help guide her along the way.”

Taylor Treder said emotional support is essential beginning when a woman has a suspicious mammogram or needs a biopsy. If the biopsy comes back benign, then the coordinator’s work is done. If the results are positive, she connects with the patient to help coordinate any necessary appointments or referrals.

“I meet with patients at the very beginning and continue with them through treatment to ensure they’re getting the care they need in the best possible way,” said Taylor Treder, who like Krueger is a registered nurse. “We cannot take the diagnosis away, but we can make it easier for patients so they can concentrate more on enjoying their lives instead of being consumed by the breast cancer diagnosis. For example, we can gather information so they don’t have to wait around for phone calls.”

ThedaCare talked with current and recovered patients as well as providers to develop the breast care coordinator role, said Karen Flom, ThedaCare’s manager for radiation oncology. “Patients really experience a difference in care and service thanks to the coordinators. We can individualize a program based on a patient’s needs and wishes. We can help as much or as little they want,” she said.

“The goal is to help patients get timely diagnosis and treatment for breast patients and also provide emotional support and information to help coordinate care through the health system and beyond,” Krueger said. “We look not only at the medical resources, but also counseling and community resources if needed.”

ThedaCare’s Breast Care program, which serves patients at Appleton Medical Center, Theda Clark Medical Center in Neenah and Appleton’s Encircle Health, a Partnership with ThedaCare, is the only facility in the Fox Cities to receive the prestigious accreditation from the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC). The major certification recognizes ThedaCare’s dedication to improving the quality of care and monitoring the outcomes of patients with breast diseases.

ThedaCare™ is a community health system consisting of five hospitals: Appleton Medical Center, Theda Clark Medical Center, New London Family Medical Center, Shawano Medical Center, and Riverside Medical Center in Waupaca. ThedaCare also includes ThedaCare Physicians, ThedaCare Behavioral Health, and ThedaCare at Home. ThedaCare is the largest employer in Northeast Wisconsin with more than 6,175 employees. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

For more information, media may contact Megan Wilcox, APR, (megan.wilcox@thedacare.org), public relations and corporate specialist for ThedaCare, at (920) 830-5847, or call the Theda Clark Medical Center switchboard at (920) 729-3100 and ask for the marketing person on call