As the support services supervisor at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute, Dana Weber leads the patient education team, which helps to prepare and support patients through cancer treatment.

“The doctor may have said a lot of things at a patient’s initial appointment. They may have talked about imaging, labs, drugs and treatment, and it can be overwhelming,” she says. “A patient can definitely leave that first appointment thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t think I can do this.’ Or ‘I don’t know what this diagnosis means for my job or my family.’”

Providing patient education

Each newly diagnosed patient receiving an infusion, such as chemotherapy, and current patients who’ve had a change in their regimen will meet one-on-one with a nurse educator, like Mary Vaughn. This visit, either in person or by phone, is an opportunity for patients to receive information about their treatment, including:

  • What to expect
  • How to handle side effects
  • Who and when to call if concerning issues should arise
  • Emotional support to help process their diagnosis

“Anxiety can be a huge part of that initial patient experience and knowledge is empowering,” Mary says. “So, we try to give patients good tools, reassure them, give them a team to support them that can help them through their treatment.”

Treating the whole patient

In addition to nurse educators, the cancer center’s support services team consists of patient navigators, social workers, dietitians and financial counselors who can help address a patient’s individual needs and concerns.

“You can’t separate cancer treatment out from the rest of your life. So, we try to encompass all aspects of that person’s life into their care regimen,” says Mary.

“We’re really looking at the patient and the person and saying, ‘We’re here to be your healthcare home through this journey,’” Dana says. “We want them to leave that appointment thinking, ‘OK, I have a team behind me, I have my provider, I have my nurses, I have the infusion team, I have everybody rooting for me and they really think ‘yeah, I can do it.’”

To learn more about patient support services at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute, click here.