Working as a Nurse Navigator in the Loma Linda University Cancer Center, Karen Contreras guides patients through the diagnosis, treatment and recovery process.
I joined the Loma Linda University Cancer Center team in 2007 after working for 34 years as a breast cancer navigator for a large health insurance company. When I heard that Loma Linda was starting a navigation program, I was delighted to be a part of developing a program within a single hospital.
My mother was a nurse and while I spent my childhood planning on becoming a doctor, I eventually decided on becoming a nurse when my husband was serving in Vietnam. For me, nursing has been an incredible way to directly help people and heal them in a holistic way.
Being a Nurse Navigator
Through the nurse navigation program here at Loma Linda University Cancer Center, I'm able to guide patients through the entire cancer treatment process. From their initial diagnosis to further testing to the different treatment options to the recovery process, I coordinate their appointments and provide assistance with the other aspects of treatment.
We offer each patient care from the many members of our multidisciplinary teams, and I work to ensure the patient gets medical appointments, financial advice, psychological care and any other things they may need to facilitate the healing process. Many patients can be overwhelmed with the prospect of organizing all of the different aspects of their cancer treatment, particularly when they're focusing all of their energy on battling cancer.
As a nurse navigator, I come alongside them with love, understanding and guidance to get them through their treatment and back on the road to health.
Beyond the Cancer Center
I love to travel and bring friends and family with me to see new places. One of the other things I also enjoy is fixing up houses—mine, my mother's, my sister's and my friends'. I'm not crafty, but I love bringing things together to transform a space.
Maybe that's why I love nursing so much—it's that desire to fix and make things whole and beautiful.