Oncology Nurse Navigators Help Guide Memorial Hermann Patients Through the Cancer Journey
Memorial Hermann’s Oncology Nurse Navigators (from left to right): Sylvia Brown, M.S., RN, OCN, CNL,
ONN-CG; Carolyn Allsen, B.S.N., RN, OCN, ONN-CG; Jessica Burgess, B.S.N, RN, OCN, ONN-CG; Carol
Kirton, B.S.N., RN, OCN; Angela Sisk, M.S.N., RN, OCN, AHN-BC; Deidra Teoh, M.S.N., RN, OCN, ONN-CG
Following a cancer diagnosis, a patient may feel lost – between scheduling appointments with physicians to coping with the emotional toll a diagnosis can have on the mind and body. To help sort through this new territory, a very specialized group of oncology nurses offer a coordination of care that can be very beneficial to the patient. An Oncology Nurse Navigator is often the initial point of contact following a diagnosis, and can help patients with everything from seeking out support groups and services, to streamlining communication and appointment scheduling with the patient’s physicians.
According to the Oncology Nursing Society, “the goal of navigation is to reduce cancer morbidity and mortality by eliminating barriers to timely access to cancer care, which may be financial, psychological, logistic, or related to communication or the healthcare delivery system.” Becoming an Oncology Nurse Navigator is not an easy feat, as it requires not only specialized training in oncology, but a determination and passion to guide patients during such a difficult disease. Cancer treatment can be extremely complex and patients can get overwhelmed by barriers during the lengthy process. Navigation is essential in assisting to identify and resolve the barriers that could affect the patient’s plan of care. Ultimately, the navigation team’s goal is to have every patient be able to receive treatment in a timely manner with as little issues/barriers as possible.
At Memorial Hermann, a dedicated team of Oncology Nurse Navigators assist the cancer patients seen in the System each year:
Carolyn Allsen, B.S.N., RN, OCN, ONN-CG
Memorial Hermann Cancer Center – The Woodlands
Carolyn Allsen received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Memorial University of Newfoundland Canada, and has been working in the oncology field since 1994. She began her career as a certified chemotherapy inpatient nurse and moved to Texas in 2000, upon which she worked at The University of Texas
M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in multiple roles, including manager at the Proton Therapy Center. Since 2013, Carolyn has been the Oncology Nurse Navigator at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Hospital.
Carolyn is currently the president of the Houston Area Chapter of the American Academy of Oncology and Patient Navigators and a member of the Oncology Nursing Society, and serves on both Memorial Hermann’s Integrated Network Cancer Committee and Cancer Survivorship Celebration Planning Committee.
Carolyn’s passion for her role shines through in everything she does, whether it is teaching an art therapy course, to presenting on cancer prevention and detection at countless school or community events in The Woodlands. “I have been working with oncology patients for over 20 years and this patient population is the most receptive for education. Even as they are preparing for the biggest fight of their life, my patients’ contagious, positive energy is what motivates me to keep going each day. My greatest passion is educating patients about being healthy and taking care of their body.”
Sylvia Brown, M.S., RN, OCN, CNL, ONN-CG
Memorial Hermann Cancer Center Texas Medical Center
Sylvia Brown received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from The University of Texas Nursing School at Houston, and a Master of Science in Nursing from Texas Woman’s University Houston – Clinical Nurse Leader. She began her career in 2007 at MD Anderson Cancer Center and worked both in the Stem Cell Transplant and Cellular Therapy Unit and as a Clinical Nurse Leader at MD Anderson’s Children’s Cancer Hospital.
She has been an Oncology Nurse Navigator since coming to Memorial Hermann in 2013.
In July 2011, Sylvia’s article “Hematologic Malignancy Education for Stem Cell Transplantation Nurses” was published in Oncology Nursing Forum. She was also a contributor to Lorene Payne’s 2010 book, The Nursing Student’s Guide to Clinical Success, and has had several poster presentations at the American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation conference.
"Given my own personal experience, I have a better understanding of what oncology patients are going through from the point of view of the patient, caregiver and healthcare worker."
- Sylvia Brown, M.S., RN, OCN, CNL, ONN-CG
For Sylvia, her passion for working with oncology patients is enhanced because of her personal history with the disease.
“As a cancer survivor, I know firsthand what it feels like to receive a cancer diagnosis and the uncertainties a diagnosis can bring. I was a caregiver to my mom who was diagnosed with lung cancer and lost her battle nine months later. Given my own personal experience, I have a better understanding of what oncology patients are going through from the point of view of the patient, caregiver and healthcare worker.”
Jessica Burgess, B.S.N, RN, OCN, ONN-CG
Memorial Hermann Cancer Center – Memorial City
Jessica Burgess received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Texas A&M Corpus Christi in 2007 and has been an Oncology Nurse Navigator at Memorial Hermann Cancer Center – Memorial City since September 2013. Before coming to Memorial Hermann, Jessica worked as a nurse manager in the MD Anderson Cancer Center Stem Cell Transplant and Cellular Therapy Unit, and has over 10 years of experience in oncology patient care.
Each year, Jessica participates in countless community outreach events and lends her support to committees within Memorial Hermann, including the annual Cancer Survivorship Celebration committee. In 2014, Jessica co-authored “Impact of an incentive-based mobility program, ‘Motivated and Moving,’ on physiologic and quality of life outcomes in a stem cell transplant population,” which was published in Cancer Nursing.
She serves as the membership liaison for the Academy of Oncology Nurse Navigators Houston Area Chapter.
Of her role as an Oncology Nurse Navigator, Jessica says: “I believe that oncology nursing is a true calling. To hold the hands of those going through the cancer journey, not knowing what they feel like but empathizing with the struggles they are enduring is truly an honor. I have learned so much from my patients and I am so grateful to them for sharing their stories, their struggles, successes, good days and bad all with me. To be in the presence of such bravery is very humbling and I only hope that I can bring a small piece of hope and happiness to them right when they need it most.”
Carol Kirton,B.S.N., RN, OCN
Memorial Hermann Cancer Center – Northeast
Of Scottish descent, Carol earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of Dundee in Dundee, Scotland, and her Diploma in Adult Nursing at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, Scotland. Upon graduation in 2003, she worked as a staff nurse at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, where she was first exposed to oncology nursing. She has been practicing in the field ever since.
Carol has been with the Memorial Hermann Health System since 2009, where she served as a supplemental oncology nurse on the inpatient oncology unit and at the Memorial Hermann Cancer Center - Texas Medical Center, as well as the supplemental oncology nurse at Memorial Hermann Cancer Center – Northeast. She has been the Oncology Nurse Navigator at Memorial Hermann Cancer Center – Northeast since August 2016, is an Oncology Certified Nurse and has been credentialed in chemotherapy and biotherapy since 2010.
Of her role as an Oncology Nurse Navigator, Carol says: “I love being a navigator and following and participating in each patient’s journey. It’s important that patients have as much support, resources and advice as we can get them to make the journey more bearable.
Oncology is my passion and I feel so lucky to work with such an awesome navigation team that all have a genuine interest in our patients. Oncology patients deserve the best of the best.”
Angela Sisk, M.S.N., RN, OCN, AHN-BC
Memorial Hermann Cancer Center – Greater Heights
Angela Sisk received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Texas Woman’s University in Houston in 1996, and her Master of Science in Nursing from University of Phoenix in 2005. She has been the Oncology Nurse Navigator at Memorial Hermann Greater Heights Hospital for close to 8 years.
Angela is an Oncology Certified Nurse, an Advanced Holistic Nurse-Board Certified, and a Certified YogaNurse®. Angela is passionate about learning and sharing resources and tools to enhance physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing during the cancer journey.
Angela has over 20 years of experience working with oncology patients in both the inpatient and outpatient setting. She is a member of the Oncology Nursing Society, American Holistic Nursing Association, and Academy of Oncology Nurse and Patient Navigators. Angela has been a presenter at the Oncology Nursing Society’s national conference and has been published in multiple nursing journals.
Angela followed in the footsteps of her grandmother and became a nurse.
When the same grandmother was diagnosed with stomach cancer, she knew she wanted to work with cancer patients. Angela chose to do a nursing rotation at MD Anderson Cancer Center and began working there right after graduating from nursing school. She has been an oncology nurse ever since.
"I have learned so much from my patients about strength, courage, and what is important in life."
- Angela Sisk, M.S.N., RN, OCN, AHN-BC
“What I love about navigation is that I get to be a trusted partner with patients during their cancer journey. I have learned so much from my patients about strength, courage, and what is important in life.
It makes me feel good to help patients navigate the complex healthcare system and break down barriers to their care, so they can focus on getting better.”
Deidra Teoh, M.S.N., RN, OCN, ONN-CG
Memorial Hermann Southwest Region
Deidra received her Master of Science in Nurse Education from the University of Houston - Victoria, and her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Prairie View A&M University. As the Lung Oncology Nurse Navigator for Memorial Hermann’s Southwest Region, Deidra is responsible for providing support and education to lung cancer patients, from screening through treatment and into survivorship.
Throughout her career, Deidra has worked for The Woman’s Hospital of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center, and as an adjunct nursing instructor at the University of Houston-Victoria.
Deidra is very active in the community as a member of the Academy of Oncology Nurse Navigators, the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing, and the Oncology Nursing Society. She has been the recipient of numerous awards in her nursing career, including a Bronze Award for Excellence in Nursing from the Good Samaritan Foundation in 2013.
“I became an oncology nurse because I have lost too many of my own family members to cancer. There’s nothing more special than being there as a resource in someone’s time of need to be able to make what could be the worst day of their life better, that’s a blessing. I learn so much from my patients about life – they are very special people.”
For more information on Oncology Nurse Navigation at Memorial Hermann, or to be connected to any of the navigators above, please visit cancer.memorialhermann.org/oncology--cancer--nurse-navigators/.
Memorial Hermann Nurses Among First in U.S. to Receive Specialized Oncology Certification
Four of Memorial Hermann’s Oncology Nurse Navigators, Carolyn Allsen, Jessica Burgess, Sylvia Brown and Deidra Teoh, recently became certified by the Academy of Oncology & Patient Navigators (AONN).
In November 2016, Memorial Hermann Oncology Nurse Navigators Carolyn Allsen, Sylvia Brown, Jessica Burgess and Deidra Teoh were eligible and invited to take the Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators (AONN) Certification Exam.
The AONN is the largest national specialty organization dedicated to improving patient care and quality of life by defining, enhancing, and promoting the role of oncology nurse and patient navigators.
This was the inaugural year for the certification program, which tested the nurses’ competencies in areas like community outreach, coordination of care, patient advocacy, and survivorship support. All four became the first nurses in Houston, and among the first in the nation, to become certified by AONN.
“When a patient receives a cancer diagnosis, it can be a shock both for the patient and his or her family. As a nurse myself, I am proud of the efforts of all of our oncology nurse navigators to help patients during what can be an overwhelming experience. This certification from the AONN is further proof of their dedication to patients,” says Charles “Chuck” Stokes, President and CEO of Memorial Hermann.