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How local family medicine practice’s nurse navigators serve as patient advocates

Stepfanie Romine,
for San Juan Regional Medical Center
Nurse navigators make sure nothing falls through the cracks, help patients take control of their health and look at their entire health care journey.

Advocacy is a topic that is frequently discussed in health care these days. Patients are encouraged to be their own advocates or to assign a loved one to fill that role. In health care, advocacy can help patients feel empowered and cared for, but it can also be a heavy load to bear while navigating a chronic illness, yet-to-be-diagnosed condition or other health care issue.

That’s why San Juan Health Partners Family Medicine Farmington now has two full-time nurse navigators on staff. The practice, a primary care clinic for adult patients who do not currently have a primary health care provider, also includes one family medicine physician and two family nurse practitioners. 

These nurse navigators help differentiate San Juan Health Partners Family Medicine Farmington from other local family medicine practices. 

Patrick Oglesby, BSN, RN, one of the two navigators at San Juan Health Partners Family Medicine Farmington

“A nurse navigator is a nurse who works in the clinic as an advocate for the patient,” said Patrick Oglesby, BSN, RN, one of the two navigators at San Juan Health Partners Family Medicine Farmington. “We are trying to be the go-to person for the patient if they have any questions. We become a liaison between the patient and the provider.”

This enhanced service is part of the routine care offered at San Juan Health Partners Family Medicine Farmington. The practice is designed to be a patient’s health care home and help them avoid readmission to the hospital, emergency department or urgent care. The practice offers same-day and next-day appointments after discharge, to help patients assess next steps.  

“We look at the paths the patient has been on, the direction they want to take, and partner with them to reach their desired destination,” said Shelley Oglesby, BSN, RN, who’s also a nurse navigator. “My favorite part of my job is getting to know each person on a personal level and finding out what is important to the patient. I can then come alongside the patient and help guide them along the journey.”

Shelley Oglesby, BSN, RN, one of the two navigators at San Juan Health Partners Family Medicine Farmington

Here’s a look at some of the services nurse navigators offer patients:

  • Help patients navigate the health care system
  • Gathering a patient’s full medical history
  • Answering questions about services, such as outpatient rehabilitation and physical therapy
  • Setting up referrals to specialists
  • Making appointments with services and specialists
  • Helping track down medical records to fill in any holes or gaps
  • Updating medications on a patient’s chart and answering questions about those medications
  • Annual Medicare wellness visits, spending 45 minutes to an hour with each patient and learning their needs and goals

Being able to spend extra time with patients is an important part of the nurse navigator role, said Patrick Oglesby. They offer information and support to help ease fears, and they lend an empathic ear as well as pro-active support.

“My favorite part of the job is getting to know the patients on a personal level and getting to learn more about the patient and their health -- and then being able to help the patient identify needs or goals,” he said.

Managing health care can feel like juggling, especially after an urgent ER visit or while living with one or more chronic conditions. Nurse navigators take over and help patients keep those balls in the air – without letting any of them drop. They make sure nothing falls through the cracks, help patients take control of their health and look at their entire health care journey. In many ways, they’re like a concierge, offering personalized care to any patient in the practice that needs support.  

San Juan Health Partners is a division of San Juan Regional Medical Center. As a non-profit, community-owned hospital, San Juan Regional Medical Center serves the Four Corners area of New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah.  Its mission is to personalize health care and create enthusiasm and vitality in healing.

For more information about the nurse navigators, please contact San Juan Health Partners Family Medicine Farmington or call 505-609-2990.

Members of the editorial and news staff of the USA TODAY Network were not involved in the creation of this content.
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