Below are excerpts from an interview I had with Yolanda Marzouk, patient navigator at Sinai’s Alvin & Lois Lapidus Cancer Institute.
Judy: Yolanda, your title is “patient navigator.” What is a patient navigator and what are your responsibilities?
Yolanda: As you can imagine, patients who have been newly diagnosed with cancer are upset, frightened and often feel a loss of control over their lives. I try to be a source of reassurance and information. I meet with new patients when they come in for their first chemotherapy treatment, answer questions, assist with possible barriers to care (such as transportation problems to and from the Cancer Institute for treatment) and present support group options.
J: The Auxiliary was pleased to provide a grant to your department both last year and, based on your glowing feedback, again this year for the implementation and expansion of the Integrative Therapy Program. Please tell our readers about your program.
Y: As indicated in our grant proposal, the program was designed to improve the well-being of our patients by providing stress reduction and relaxation to participants as they undergo the tedious process of protracted and repeated infusion therapy. All the therapies we offer are conducted by trained professionals.
J: Approximately how many people have taken part in the program and what is the age range?
Y: Several hundred patients have participated, our youngest only 21 years old and most senior, 92.
J: In your application for the grant last year, you indicated that the Integrative Therapy Program involves several modalities - art, music and guided imagery meditation. Let’s start with art.
Y: We have an artist who comes in twice a month and offers workshops at the infusion center and an art therapist who is on site twice a week and works with participants on a one-to-one basis as they undergo their infusion treatments. Some of our patients have never painted before, and we are overwhelmed by the quality of their previously undiscovered talent! (Please see patient artwork on the right) One of our participants was so enthusiastic that she changed the day of her treatment just so she could be at the Institute when the art therapist was here.
J: What about the music component of your program?
Y: We currently have a guitarist/singer who comes in once a month and sings in the infusion center and a student from the Peabody
Institute who plays music each month.
J: Please tell our readers about other segments of the Integrative Therapy Program.
Y: Our guided imaging therapy uses CDs and DVDs to help patients achieve a sense of calm and peace by guiding them to a relaxing place they’ve experienced in the past. We offer a monthly support group in which a visiting psychotherapist teaches an emotional freedom technique. This year we initiated meditation therapy and Reiki, a technique of “off-body” healing practiced in many oncology facilities.
It’s interesting and gratifying for our staff to witness how many patients begin the Integrative Therapy Program as naysayers or skeptics and end up as enthusiastic participants. We and our patients really appreciate the Auxiliary’s support for this important program.
If you are skilled in alternative therapies and would like to volunteer your services, pleast contact Yolanda Marzouk at YMarzouk@lifebridgehealth.org, or by phone at 410-601-0920.
-Written by Judy Mehlman, originally featured in Sinai Hospital Auxiliary newsletter Impact
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