May 6-12 is National Nurses Week, and the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute has a team of over 20 nurses who serve as case managers, nurse practitioners and researchers. Gail Sarto, RN, BSN, OCN, directs the adult nursing team and Amy Sapp, RN, directs the pediatric nursing team.
According to Ms. Sarto, patient care begins with a holistic approach. Each patient’s treatment is individualized, and a customized plan begins even before the first appointment when the nurse case manager is in touch to gather information. “This makes it possible for the first visit with the medical team to be as comprehensive as possible and for the patient to feel like we know them as soon as they arrive,” she said. In order for the most appropriate treatment plan to be developed, sometimes patients need testing to assure the cancer is properly staged, and nurses assist with testing.
The nurse case manager follows the patient through treatment and provides relief for symptoms and emotional support. “Having this new diagnosis of cancer is challenging, and frequently patients and their families require a lot of assistance with understanding the disease process and getting needed support,” said Ms. Sarto. “We work closely with our social workers to provide patients emotional and physical support. We also work closely with the billing department to assist with insurance issues that require clinical input.”
As patients transition to survivorship following treatment, the nurse case manager provides ongoing support to patients and families. With many patients who live outside of Jacksonville, coordination of care following treatment requires significant resources and support from the proton therapy nurses. “In survivorship, patients may need referrals or interventions. We work with the patient and their local resources to assure the patient’s needs are met,” said Ms. Sarto.
Clinical research is a unique focus of the Institute and nurse case managers along with research nurses are essential in educating patients about clinical trials they may be eligible to participate in as well as gathering data about the treatments’ effects. “Our goal is to provide the best quality of care that is research based,” she said.
The Institute’s nursing philosophy starts with respect for each individual, regardless of background, and includes being a partner with the patient in their care. Ms. Sarto said, “Being part of the patient’s care team is a special privilege.”