Meet Our Nurse Navigator

Meet Our Nurse Navigator

Drita Nuculovic, RN
Drita Nuculovic, RN

Often Unused Resource Helps Cancer Patients Navigate Diagnosis, Treatment, and Beyond

Two million Americans will learn they have cancer this year. The diagnosis can be overwhelming and terrifying, but a nurse navigator can help patients find solid footing on their cancer journeys.

"I love the communication, empathy, and sympathy I can offer with my knowledge base, that I can use to help patients through the worst time in their life," says Nurse Navigator Drita Nuculovic. 

Every patient treated at Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Flint and the McLaren Proton Therapy Center has access to a nurse navigator, no matter what type of cancer they're battling.

"We walk you through the process and educate you, your caregivers, and family members," Drita said. "Our role is to tie all the pieces together- chemo, radiation, surgery- and make sure they coordinate, and that specialists treating you are on the same page."

Nurse navigators also put patients in touch with resources to help them cope with life outside the care setting. That may mean finding help paying bills, getting rides to treatment, emotional support, and a host of services that are not directly related to the actual treatments themselves. The trouble is many patients do not take advantage of these vital resources.

"People don't want to be a bother, but I always let them know that, regardless, there is no question or issue that is a bother," Drita said.

Many of the patients Drita works with have a lot of questions about their treatments. She is the nurse navigator for the McLaren Proton Therapy Center. There are only 43 proton therapy centers in the country, so many people have never heard of the treatment option. For many patients, that first appointment can be a whirlwind.

"People are so overwhelmed with information they may not know all the questions they have until later. If they have questions that aren't getting answered I am there for them," Drita said.

Drita is also the first contact for potential patients who call the McLaren Proton Therapy Center, looking for information.

"A lot of patients don't know exactly what it is. I will follow up with any patient who comes in or calls about proton therapy and educate them about how it can benefit them," Drita said. "They can discuss that information with their physician, to come up with the best plan for their care."

A nurse navigator's sole purpose is to look out for the patient, but in Drita's experience, often patients can be the best teachers.

"I like to share tips and tricks I've learned from other patients regarding how they've worked through different challenges," Drita said.