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Hospital Patient Navigator Helps Calm Cancer Fears

BRONXVILLE, N.Y. – After patients are diagnosed with cancer, they might feel uncomfortable opening up to a doctor about their fears. That's why Kate Gutekunst says it's her mission as the patient navigator of Lawrence Hospital Center to create an environment in which people can freely ask questions and talk about their worries.

“I meet patients in the beginning and they’re still in shock. I have them come see me with a family member and I try to address their concerns immediately,” said Gutekunst, a Katonah resident.

She said people come to her with a myriad of worries about their diagnoses. For example, a patient might be stressed about getting to chemotherapy treatment appointments without a source of transportation. In that situation, Gutekunst might connect the patient with an organization, like the American Cancer Society, which can help arrange a car service. For those who don’t speak English, she can direct them to bilingual counseling services.

Gutekunst also understands that for many families, cancer treatments can create a financial burden caused by mounting medical bills. For them, Gutekunst might coordinate a meeting with the financial advisers at Lawrence Hospital Center.

“Some answers I have for them, and for others I direct them toward educational materials,” she said. “A lot of people are fearful of the diagnosis, so they don’t hear a lot of what they’re being told by the doctor at first.”

It’s also a comfort for patients to know they aren’t battling their illness alone, Gutekunst said. Recently, she was able to calm down a patient who was so nervous to undergo her first chemotherapy treatment that she canceled the appointment.

“I took her out of the stressful situation and we talked. Within the next 20 minutes, she was much better.” Gutekunst also gives out her business card and cell phone number to patients so they can call her if they need her.

“I’ve been at Lawrence Hospital Center for over 30 years,” she said. “I know the fears and concerns these patients have.”

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