Jennifer Stevick, NP-C, Kaitlyn Baxter, NP-C, and Lisa Weldon, ANP-BC Valdosta– Healthcare in the United States is undergoing major changes. The battle to adapt to these changes, while continuing to place the patient at the center of all decisions, is one that SGMC’s Pearlman Cancer Center (PCC) is winning. Pearlman’s response to the continued growth of its service line has led to the expansion of the nurse practitioner clinician model within the Center. Late last year, Kaitlyn Baxter, NP-C, and Lisa Weldon, ANP-BC joined their fellow team mate Jennifer Stevick, NP-C to enhance Pearlman’s well established program to ensure that quality of patient care, accountability and innovation in all cancer-related services continue to be the best it can be. “The leadership of SGMC believes that the expansion of our advanced practice nursing role represents an exciting opportunity for Pearlman,” states Dr. John Devine, Medical Director of Oncology Services. Pearlman’s nationally-recognized Survivorship Plus Program for Community Cancer Centers has been managed by PCC nurse practitioners since its inception in 2011. Under the nurse practitioner’s care, this program assists patients (who have completed cancer treatment) in managing life’s challenges after cancer. The nurse practitioners support the patient with mental, physical, emotional, and financial issues, as well as provide education to establish a future focused on healthy living. A key component of survivorship is continued medical follow-up and physical rehabilitation to improve overall stamina and wellness, in addition to disease- and treatment-specific side effects. Pearlman will now introduce the nurse practitioners into the patient health environment earlier in care, allowing them to become an integral part of the whole patient experience. Under the direction of Medical Oncologists/Hematologists Drs. Eric Anderson and Samuel Ofori, the nurse practitioners will assist in the delivery and management of care for both hematology and oncology patients. The expansion of the advanced practice nursing role has allowed the NPs to engage in several new Pearlman initiatives. The focus in 2016 includes the coordination of a CT lung screening program, breast cancer navigation initiative, the improvement of lymphedema services and continued community education on the role genetics can play in identifying individuals for cancer screenings. The CT lung screening program will allow the NPs to work with primary care physicians to screen and test patients that are at high risk for lung cancer. Once screened by the primary care provider, the NPs will coordinate the scheduling of a low-dose CT scan, then follow-up with the patient’s primary physician to share the findings. This screening program is designed to identify lung cancer at an earlier and more manageable stage, therefore improving overall survival. The goal of Pearlman’s community wide commitment to breast health is being navigated from early detection to post treatment symptom management by the NPs. The NPs are developing a system to contact a patient quickly when a breast cancer diagnosis has been made. This immediately establishes a support system and assures the patient they are not in this fight alone. The development of lymphedema services will help educate breast cancer patients on how to address this side effect that may occur, thus dramatically improving their quality of life after cancer. Pearlman’s NPs are also committed to sharing the latest advancements in genetic testing as it relates to cancer care. Through educational talks and one-on-one sessions, they will educate community members and patients alike. Advanced practice roles are expected to grow and improve the transformation of healthcare, the management of resources, and cancer care in general. “We are fortunate to have these individuals who create the right mix of knowledge and skills, who can work together in new ways to continue our mission in providing excellence in the care we deliver,” stated Bridgett Young, Director of Oncology Services. The NPs share excitement in the expansion of their roles in cancer care and embrace the changing environment. Speaking as one voice Stevick, Baxter, and Weldon said, “We put our patients in the center of every decision we make. Our goal is to work with each client to individualize their journey and assist them every step of the way. We love being here.” For more information on the Pearlman Cancer Center at SGMC, visit our website, www.sgmc.org/cancer or call 229-259-4600.