Susan Scherer — one of four finalists for a national nursing honor — wants to help patients understand their medical conditions and to obtain the most appropriate care.
Scherer will find out Friday if she received the 2013 Oncology Nurse Excellence award from the Academy of Oncology Nurse Navigators when they meet in Memphis, Tenn.
Scherer is gratified to be recognized as being among the nation’s leading oncology nurses, but she is even more excited about a business she has launched that will serve patients in a new way: RN Cancer Guides.
It pairs oncology nurses with cancer patients to help the patients gain a better understanding of their medical condition, and to be better equipped to manage their care. It’s a unique approach, Scherer said, noting “it’s never been done.”
The company is in its infancy, but the Land O’ Lakes nurse foresees vast potential for expansion, as there is no shortage of a need for the services her company provides.
In a nutshell, RN Cancer Guides provides a nursing expert to review a patient’s medical records and medications, and to accompany a patient on important doctor visits when patients are at a decision point in their care. They also help patients become aware of resources that may be available to help them reduce medication and medical service charges, or to help cover those costs.
Prior to launching her business this summer, Scherer worked as a nurse at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute. Before that, she was a nurse in Minnesota where she suffered a stroke. That gave her a greater affinity for working with patients with neurological conditions.
Scherer’s goal is to help patients learn enough to handle their health care issues on their own, but she said most people are not equipped to deal with the complex issues that confront cancer patients. On top of that, patients generally are grappling with emotional and financial pressures, as well as impacts their conditions have on their work and family lives.
She believes oncology nurses are in a unique position to help cancer patients understand their condition, become more aware of their options, and pursue appropriate care.
“Nurses seem to be the point of contact. Patients really open up to nursing,” Scherer said.
She also is a staunch advocate for patient rights.
“People are having to take more responsibility for their own health care,” Scherer said. “I believe people have the right to hear what’s going on, honestly, with them.”
Unfortunately, many people find doctors to be intimidating, she said. “There’s a whole generation of, ‘Well, the doctor said …’”
Finding appropriate care is essential, but that doesn’t always happen. “People will shop for cars more than they will their own physician,” she said.
Scherer’s service helps people gain greater insight about their options and resources that may be available to help them. It also helps patients realize they need to advocate for their health care.
“I give them a voice. I say, ‘You have every right to say what you have to say. You have every right to be heard. This is your life,’” she said.
She believes patients want to be informed about their condition, — even when the news is bad.
“If you arm people with education and you tell them the truth, they can handle it a lot better than if you blindside them,” Scherer said.
She believes her new venture is particularly timely.
“Right now, we have this health care system and nobody knows what’s happening. It’s mass chaos. Looking at how fragmented that things are right now, now is the time to help out,” she said.
RN Cancer Guides serves patients at any stage of their diagnosis, she said.
Costs for the service vary. For newly diagnosed patients with no complications, the service is $750, which includes 10 hours of service and a doctor’s visit.
The cost increases to $1,000 for 15 hours of service and a doctor’s visit, for more complicated cases, and $2,000 for up to 20 hours of service and a doctor’s visit for even more complex cases.
There’s also an hourly consulting service available at $149 an hour. And, there are corporate programs available, too, for businesses that want to provide a cancer assistance program for their employees.
When the patient is facing an important decision, the oncology nurse will accompany them on that doctor visit, Scherer said.
“When I go into physicians’ offices, I have to not be adversarial. I’m supposed to be an extension of everybody, to make sure they’re all talking,” Scherer said.
If she wins the award on Friday, it won’t be Scherer’s first honor. In 2005, she received a Florida Hospital Heroes Award after she and her husband, Nick, traveled to Mississippi twice in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
The couple hauled a trailer full of food and supplies to dispense to storm victims. She also provided medical assistance, administering tetanus shots and helping in other ways.
Anyone who would like to know more about RN Cancer Guides can call (813) 360-1145, can email , or can visit the company’s website at www.RNCancerGuides.com.
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