Natasha Candy, R.N.
PINEHURST -- “At the end of the day, I know I have helped someone. Who wouldn’t want the joy of that?” remarked Natasha Candy, BSN, R.N., the newest oncology nurse navigator at FirstHealth of the Carolinas.
In her new role, Candy serves as the first line of support for patients throughout their cancer treatment at FirstHealth. “When patients are given a cancer diagnosis, it’s a scary time with lots of questions,” said Candy. “I help my patients and their families decipher new terminology and information they’re hearing so they can understand and evaluate treatment options available to them.” Candy said she is also a listening ear with whom patients can voice their fears and “talk it out.”
Nurse navigators provide care that extends beyond treatment. “Nurse navigators are fundamental in the care of cancer patients at FirstHealth,” says gynecologic oncologist Michael Sundborg, M.D. “They provide unparalleled support and guidance for our patients and their families.”
Candy joins two other oncology nurse navigators, Lynn Lanier, MSN, R.N., ONN-CG, and Kim Cobb, R.N., ONN-CG. Also on the team is Laura Kuzma, MSW, supervisor of Oncology Patient Navigation and Support Services.
“Many patients don’t realize that if they face barriers to care, we have resources to help,” said Candy. “We tell our patients that they don’t have to stay home because they don’t have a ride or gas money or that they can’t leave a family member at home. We have support systems to help eliminate those worries so they can focus on getting better.”
Nurse navigators connect patients with services such as a financial navigator, counseling, lodging at the Clara McLean House, yoga and wellness programs, massage therapy, fellowship with cancer survivors and much more. They also coordinate communications among various physicians involved in a patient’s care to ensure a streamlined process, keeping patients in the loop at each step.
“The need for oncology nurse navigators is great” said Matt Sherer, administrative director of Oncology and Clinical Trials at FirstHealth. “By the end of 2019, an estimated 1,500 residents in FirstHealth’s primary care area of Hoke, Lee, Montgomery, Moore, Richmond and Scotland counties will receive a new cancer diagnosis. In the system’s secondary service area of Randolph, Chatham, Harnett, Stanly, Anson, Robeson and Cumberland counties, the number climbs to 4,226.”
FirstHealth is actively working on expanding the program so navigators can serve more patients and focus on specific health areas. Candy’s focus will be colorectal and gynecologic cancer.
Candy decided to be a nurse after her son was born 21 years ago. “It was a frightening time and the nurses there made me feel so comfortable,” she said. “I wanted to be able to do the same for others.” A native Kansan, she came to the Sandhills as a traveling nurse in 2017 and decided to stay. She brings experience from numerous oncology clinics, including FirstHealth Outpatient Cancer Center in Pinehurst.
Candy reports that she appreciates this opportunity to be an oncology nurse, but in a different role, saying, “I can have a one-on-one relationship with my patients and use all this knowledge I’ve amassed over the years. Oncology nursing is my calling. It’s definitely who I am.”