A cancer diagnosis can be frightening and unexpected,
and taking the next steps for care and treatment can feel
overwhelming. The MaineHealth Cancer Care Network
provides patients in Maine and Mt. Washington Valley, NH
with access to world-class, coordinated, comprehensive care
— and with patient navigators to help them on their cancer
A patient navigator is an oncology nurse or social worker
dedicated to connecting patients and their families with
the information they need to make informed and timely
decisions about their treatment plan. Navigators also help
support seamless transitions between members of the
care team, keeping patients as close to home as possible,
but facilitating access to specialty oncology care when
appropriate. The patient navigator service is free and
provided at most MaineHealth locations.
Thanks to the generosity of the Harold Alfond® Foundation,
six new patient navigators have recently joined the
MaineHealth Cancer Care Network. Amber O’Leary, RN,
OCN, is one such navigator who divides her time between
Memorial Hospital in N.H. and Maine Medical Center
(MMC) in Portland. At Memorial, O’Leary provides general
navigation services, supporting patients with any kind of
cancer. She helps patients get timely diagnostic testing
and treatment closest to home; sometimes, a specialized
treatment may not be provided at Memorial Hospital but is
available within the network.
“I get to know patients and learn what they need,” said O’Leary.
“It could be referrals, scheduling transportation to and from
appointments, or connecting them with social services. It’s
about bringing together the whole cancer care network in
support of the patient.”
Memorial patient Karen Burt added, “Any question I have,
Amber will find the answer to. She’s gotten me a ride to see
my doctor, arranged for me to get the nutritional supplements
I need. Now I don’t worry about things.”
O’Leary is also MaineHealth’s first head and neck cancer
navigator. Based at MMC, she facilitates care for patients
with complex needs, answering questions about their
diagnosis and treatment plans and providing assistance
throughout the continuum of care.
Her work is supported
by a multidisciplinary cancer conference that reviews newly
diagnosed head and neck cancer cases.
“Amber — and other outstanding navigators like her — helps
patients and families at one of the most hectic and emotional
stages of care: from the initial diagnosis, through the staging
process, to treatment", said Fred Roediger, M.D., Maine
Medical Partners otolaryngologist. “This might include
imaging studies, biopsies, and multiple appointments with
physicians and other care providers in our system in a short
time frame. She works hard to make it as smooth a process
Patient navigators play an important patient care role
within the MaineHealth Cancer Care Network, which
brings together nearly 300 of the most talented cancer care
providers in northern New England, with the support of
the Harold Alfond® Foundation. There are over 35 clinical
patient navigators across the network who work with patients
and families to ensure they have all the information they
need to make the most informed and timely decisions about
their treatment plan.
Read the entire 2018 MaineHealth Annual Report
You are invited to download and read the 2018 MaineHealth Annual Report.
Read the entire 2017 MaineHealth Annual Report
You are invited to download and read the 2017 MaineHealth Annual Report.