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Published on July 22, 2015

Nurse Navigators Help Keep Patients on the Right Path

Nurse Navigator with patientRichard and Claire Watterson felt lost and on their own, until they met medical home nurse navigator Rebecca Daoust at Concord Hospital Medical Group Penacook Family Physicians.

“I was going in a downhill spiral,” said Richard, of Penacook. “I weighed over 400 pounds. My blood sugar was always very high. I had just about given up. I spent all of my time in bed, watching television.”

But in the fall of 2014, the Wattersons began meeting weekly with Rebecca.

“It was the best thing I could ever have done,” Richard said. In six weeks, he lost 24 pounds and his blood sugar dropped 25 percent. He was able to stop taking one of his diabetes medications and was close to eliminating blood pressure medication.

What changed? He did not feel constant pressure to lose weight or guilt if he did not meet a weekly goal. He felt support from someone dedicated to helping him succeed. Instead of steering every conversation to weight loss, as Richard had experienced for years, Rebecca asked Richard what issues were on his mind. She made suggestions that ultimately helped him begin losing weight, such as staying out of bed for longer periods, trying to move around or walk more and keeping track of what he eats.

“It felt more like friendly advice,” he said. And it’s provided motivation.

“He wants to get up and do things,” Claire said. He does a lot more walking now and it's all because of Rebecca. She’s somebody who cares.”

Rebecca said she provides advice, but Richard makes the decisions. One suggestion was to keep a food diary and exercise log. Richard said knowing he will review the information with Rebecca has helped keep him on track. Most of the hot dogs, ice cream and muffins he used to eat are gone, replaced by healthier foods and snacks.

Nurse navigators do not have an agenda when meeting with patients they are trained instead to talk about what’s important to the patient at the time. When they discuss weight loss, Rebecca points out how it already has helped improve Richard’s other ailments, such as type 2 diabetes, blood pressure and sleep apnea.

Most of Rebecca’s patients have complex chronic conditions. She makes sure they are not lost in the system, helping with appointments and follow-up and, sometimes, attending appointments with them. Richard believes the nurse navigator service is priceless. He is 59, and once wondered whether he would live to see 60.

“With Rebecca’s help,” he said, “I’m gonna make 75 or 80.”