Patient Care Navigator…On a Mission - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Patient Care Navigator…On a Mission

Patti Hollenback, BSN, RN, patient care navigator for lung cancer and colorectal cancer patients at Crozer-Chester Medical Center, is on a mission. “I want nurses to be aware (of the need for screening) because colon cancer is such a preventable disease. We are on the front line. Even outside of the hospital, in the community, people look to us nurses for advice,” she says.

Each year for the past six, Hollenback has gone to Washington, D.C. with “Fight Colorectal Cancer” to lobby legislators to keep up funding for cancer research. “Funding stayed flat over the last few years,” she says. (Fight Colorectal Cancer is a group of concerned caregivers and survivors who promote preventive care and support education to advocates on how to make a difference.)

“Did you know there has been a rise in the number of people under age 50 who are being diagnosed? That is one of the newer trends and we don’t know why,” Hollenback says.

“This is a passion for me,” she adds. “I want people to know that cancer isn’t an automatic death sentence. There are more than a million colon cancer survivors today. People should know their family history and if polyps run in their family.” 90 percent of colorectal cancers are curable when diagnosed early.

Nurses can really make a difference. “The biggest symptom of colorectal cancer is no symptom at all which is why it is so important to be screened. A nurse should ask patients if they are up-to-date on their cancer screenings. The nurse should follow with ‘can I give you some information about it?’” Information is available at each CKHS site.

They should also be alert to responses to give if they get pushback. “One thing to be aware of,” Hollenback says, “is that although colonoscopies are covered by Medicare, if during the screening a polyp is found and removed, the excision is coded differently. The patient will probably get a bill because the polyp was found. They oftentimes don’t expect it and may not be able to pay. And then they will tell their friends that they got a bill and say…‘so don’t run and get a colonoscopy’!” To avoid this, Hollenback recommends that the patient should be told beforehand about the charges along with the fact that the hospital (and office) has financial counselors to help patients manage medical charges.

Everyone should also know the red flag symptoms, she says. These are the symptoms that can show up late in the process:

  • blood in stool
  • unexplained weight loss
  • extended periods of constipation or diarrhea
  • feeling that you can’t empty your bowel.

Nurses should also know that there are patient navigators who can assist their patients at any point of their cancer journey. For information about how to reach Hollenback or any of Crozer-Keystone’s other patient care navigators for cancer patients, visit here.

Crozer-Keystone makes getting a colonoscopy easier than ever with direct access. If you just need a screening test and don’t have a problem to discuss, call 1-877-CKHS-GI1 (1-877-254-7441) to make an appointment. To learn more about Crozer-Keystone GI services, visit To learn more about Crozer-Keystone Cancer Services, visit