When seeking healthcare in the area, patients are not alone. We are pleased to have Karen Houston, our Nurse Navigator, as part of our Cancer Care Program at Community Care Physicians (CCP) to help patients and families through the complex world of cancer screening, diagnosis, treatment, and follow up care to make their experience as seamless as possible. Karen is a resource for all questions relating to a patient’s care.
As Nurse Navigator, Karen provides:
• Educational and emotional support through face to face contact with the patient and family before and after diagnosis.
• Rapid scheduling and coordination of consultations with Surgery, Medical Oncology, and Radiation Oncology.
• Helpful information to patients about their specific cancer and treatment options.
• Assistance in reviewing the advice of the patient’s doctor.
• Assistance in linking patients to support services offered through the American Cancer Society and other agencies, financial assistance programs, home health agencies, hospice and support groups.
• Access to oncology literature.
Meet Karen, a “people-person” who loves interacting directly with patients.
Originally from Troy, NY, Karen received her RN from Samaritan and her Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Master’s in Nursing from Russell Sage College.
Karen always knew she wanted to be a nurse. She started her career in labor and delivery and determined that she wanted to work in a tertiary care center. She went on to work at the ICU at St. Peters before transitioning to Albany Med, where she worked in the Department of Gynecologic Oncology. There, she administered chemotherapy, did patient teaching, and triaged and followed up on patient’s symptom management during and post treatment. The bulk of Karen’s oncology career was in radiation oncology, where she worked with Dr. Arun Puranik, Radiation Oncologist from Image Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT) and his team. She left radiation oncology in the 1990s after obtaining her Master’s to be the Director of Quality and Director of Care Management and Social Work at Albany Medical Center Hospital, where she worked for 35 years. During this time, she focused on administration, case management, and quality. During her time in case management, Karen developed an interest in care coordination and navigation. She saw how often patients and families struggle with a diverse healthcare system and she was always drawn to helping them navigate complexities.
A few years ago, Karen left Albany Med to explore population health with Empire Blue Cross, where she worked with primary care practices in value-based program to improve quality and reduce costs. However, she found she missed interacting with patients. When the Oncology Nurse Navigator role became available, she was excited at the opportunity to again provide support for patients and families in the healthcare system.
As Oncology Nurse Navigator, her role is to educate the patient about the benefits CCP can provide, including our technology, integrated system, and knowledgeable specialists. “Patients love having a name and number to contact,” Karen says. “At Community Care Physicians, we have an EMR that excels, we eliminate redundancies that the patient has to answer, and our teams work closely together and can communicate electronically.”
When a patient receives a new diagnosis, or a possible diagnosis, the physician provides the direction and Karen helps coordinate that with the patient. She serves as a single call connection to assist with the patient’s needs. “The patient may need multiple physicians to participate in decisions and my role is to work with the patient and family to arrange appointments, provide support, answer questions, work with the multidisciplinary team to receive direction related to that care, and provide support for follow up care,” Karen says.
Karen is LEAN-trained and has been published in the Journal of Nursing Care Quality and Continuum, and has presented multiple times at the AHA Leadership Summit. She is a member of the National Association of Oncology Nurse Navigator and the local chapter of Nurse Navigators for ongoing education and networking. She enjoys traveling, loves the Adirondacks, and is quite active; she spins regularly and likes outdoor activities, particularly snowshoeing. She is active in her church community and is exploring running a women’s group in Clifton Park, where she resides. Karen has 3 adult children and loves pets, especially dogs.
For more information or to ask a question about our cancer screening, diagnosis, and treatment services, please call Nurse Navigator Karen at (518) 213-0308. We can help you determine which type of doctor or services you need (both internally within CCP and externally, if required). We look forward to helping you.