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Amy Doorley is clinical coordinator of the upper gastrointestinal multidisciplinary clinic at the Lifespan Cancer Institute, a program of Rhode Island, The Miriam and Newport hospitals. She began working at Lifespan’s hospitals in 2008; she became clinical coordinator in 2013.
In a recent interview, she spoke about her responsibilities of helping coordinate care for patients and serving as a patient liaison with the care team.
My role is to take the stress out of a very stressful situation so that the patient’s experience at our hospitals is less overwhelming. I am essentially a gatekeeper, working to connect the patient to all the specialists. To do this successfully, I work with the doctors behind the scenes, attending tumor board meetings once a week, participating in evidenced-based research, and communicating with the medical staff regarding current clinical research trials that may be available for qualified patients. But first and foremost, I am there for patients. I provide extra care for patients at a time in their lives when they need it most.
Patients are referred to me by either their primary care physicians or hospital physicians.
I am here to personalize the care process for patients by setting up appointments with all the doctors who will be attending to them. I try to arrange for these appointments to take place on the same day, if possible, or to obtain first available appointments.
Yes, I assist with patient navigation between appointments and attend each appointment. I serve the patient as an extra set of eyes and ears, taking notes at each session.
Absolutely. In fact, I insist on it, and family members are welcomed. Patients, especially when dealing with an initial cancer diagnosis, may not accurately hear what the doctor is saying to them. It is often a frightening time for them. They need the support of their family. I serve as the go-between and interpreter of the medical information being shared. After the doctor leaves the room, I sit with the patients and their families to help them digest the information. I want to make sure they are grasping what has been said. And, as an extra step, I place follow-up telephone calls to patients the next day to check back with them to inquire if they understood what was being communicated to them by the doctors. I ask them to verbally repeat back to me their acknowledgment of what they thought they heard said during their medical appointments. I want to make certain that they have grasped all the information.
Once treatment begins, I work with the nurse navigator at the different cancer center departments to make sure all the appointments are moving along smoothly. I am on the periphery at this point, yet I continue to monitor the patient’s experience to ensure they are accessing whatever medical assistance they might need. I maintain an active role throughout the patient’s experience at Lifespan’s hospitals. For example, they may need to see another specialist for a CT scan, or other medical procedures, so I intervene and help them obtain these appointments.
I am a patient advocate, ensuring patients receive the best health care possible at Lifespan’s hospitals. For example, recently I worked with a patient who was having trouble coordinating the many demanding facets of her life. She had recently lost her husband; she was working 60 hours a week and yet couldn’t keep up with what was being asked of her at work. Added to this, she was struggling with health issues. That raised red flags of warning [either raised red flags or raised a warning] for me. I set up an appointment with Lifespan’s social work staff so that the patient could get assistance working through these issues.