October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and we are posting a special blog each day regarding Breast Cancer.

Today's post comes from Oka Hutchins the Public Affairs Officer at Mount Desert Island Hospital, and it has to do with the Nurse Navigator Program at MDI Hospital.

Katherine Murray, RN, is passionate about women’s health.  As the Nurse Navigator at the Breast Center, she guides each of her patients and their families through screening, diagnosis and treatment, offering a coordinated, supportive continuum of care.  Now in her third year at the Breast Center, Murray greatly enjoys her work as a Nurse Navigator.  “My passion in nursing has always been in women’s health and oncology. I care about my patients and strive to enhance their quality of life,” she says.

The first thing you notice about Murray is that she is both very gentle and very self-assured. She has the kind of steady confidence that can only come from seeing women through what may be the most frightening ordeal of their lives. Her extensive women’s health background includes certification as a nurse practitioner and a massage therapist. As a health care practitioner, Murray seeks to provide care to the whole person, not just to treat a condition or symptom. It is for this reason that she is at home at the Breast Center, where the entire care team, helmed by Medical Director John Benson, MD, FACR, embraces the same philosophy. Together, Murray, Breast Center Supervisor Roberta Wessel and the Breast Center team have supported women through difficult circumstances with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of kindness and grace.  “I don’t care who you are—this is fearful,” says Wessel.

The Breast Center Team wouldn’t be complete without receptionist Lois Wade, who is the first kind, friendly face that patients see, says Murray. Each member of the team strives to provide top-quality, personal care. Because of their efforts, the facility has been recognized by the American College of Radiology for excellence in breast imaging. The team’s whole person orientation and Nurse Navigator program fit seamlessly into MDI Hospital’s efforts to be the community’s medical home, where wellness outcomes are improved through a team based approach and comprehensive, patient centered care.

The Breast Center team regularly goes above and beyond to care for their patients.  Because of this, they are beloved by the women they care for and often receive thank you letters conveying this.  “’We are all blessed by your work and your compassion,’” Wessel reads aloud from one of her many thank you cards.” I get kind of teary reading these because we do put a lot of ourselves into this—it’s incredibly rewarding, we meet the most amazing people—it’s a gift,” she says. Regardless of the outcome of their patients’ visits, Murray and Wessel do their best to make the experience as easy and comfortable as possible. “They feel like part of the family and that’s the whole point of the medical home, I think,” says Wessel.

Patients benefit from having a Nurse Navigator at the Breast Center because it provides them with a central point of contact that is there for them during the biopsy, diagnosis and treatment phase of their care, explain Wessel and Murray.  The role of a Nurse Navigator is to provide the patient and family with educational, emotional and social support. With the help of a Nurse Navigator, patients at the Breast Center have a greater understating of the process and are encouraged to have an interactive relationship with their care team. Murray takes pride in her work as an advocate and a guide for women undergoing breast health screenings.  Regardless of the diagnosis, screenings can be “a petrifying ordeal to go through,” she says.

In addition to the highly personalized, supportive care provided by the Nurse Navigator program, the center offers the latest in breast imaging options,  such as the upright stereotactic biopsy, where a woman can be biopsied while sitting – a far more comfortable option than laying prone. The stereotactic biopsy allows physicians to sample questionable areas without requiring surgery, says Murray. The center also offers full-field digital mammography, which provides superior image quality and less radiation than traditional mammography units, and enhanced diagnostic screenings such as Breast-Specific Gamma Imaging (BSGI) and breast ultrasound. “Dr. Benson has been instrumental in making sure that we have the latest technology,” says Wessel.

As a Nurse Navigator, Murray follows her patients through each phase of their continuum of care, from breast exams and breast health education to surgery and chemotherapy. The most rewarding part of her position is being an advocate and a guide during a difficult time in a person’s life that has been diagnosed with breast cancer or is in fear of being diagnosed, she says. “The Nurse Navigator program is about having women be a part of their health care process, and high-tech, personal, compassionate care.”


Our daily Breast Cancer Awareness posts are sponsored by the Breast Center of MDI Hospital…Your Home for Breast Health. Call to schedule a screening. No referral necessary 207-288-8435