Before they turned on the office computers or answered a phone that first day of work at the Hendrick Breast Institute in Abilene, the staff lined a hallway and prayed with Hospital Chaplain Bruce Lampert.
Breast Institute Registry Coordinator Melissa Boyd and her staff listened as Lampert spoke to them of the gentle power within the scarred hands of Jesus Christ.
“That same power exists in your hands,” Lampert told them. “And, just as the aroma permeates the air around us, the work you do here will be far-reaching.”
Boyd sees that morning as the beginning of a powerful ministry that would save the lives of countless women and impact not only patients, but also families and the Breast Institute staff as well.
“The anointing set the tone,” said Boyd, who had big dreams and hopes for the endeavor, “and God made it bigger than I even thought it could be.”
From that first day of business in October of 2014, the innovative program began offering a multidisciplinary approach to breast cancer care, with goals of improving clinical outcomes and survival rates, reducing patient costs and variation of care and optimizing the patient experience.
Some patients are referred by their family physician or obstetrician/gynecologist, Boyd said, adding that many find the Breast Institute as a result of hearing about The Hope Fund at Hendrick. The Hope Fund is an initiative that provides financial assistance for mammograms and breast care treatment for women without insurance or access to care.
Elyse Lewis, coordinator of women’s health and community initiatives at Hendrick, said the program is aptly named because of the hope it offers to patients and their families.
“The Hope Fund bridges the gap in service in our community for women who aren’t otherwise able to access the care they need,” Lewis said.
By whatever means these patients come to the Breast Institute, Boyd said, she and her team are blessed to walk beside them through “a very hard time in their lives.”
But the staff does much more than that.
In regular, standing-room-only case conference meetings, each patient’s case is reviewed anonymously by multiple physicians, surgeons, nurses, nurse navigators, radiologists, oncologists and other clinical professionals who discuss options and best recommendations for each patient. The result, according to Boyd, is that patients have a large team combining their knowledge, experience and compassion for each case.
“Our service provides a network that puts the patient at the center of care,” said Boyd, who added that she and her team serve as patient advocates by facilitating access to financial resources, providing education to help the patient and family understand diagnoses and treatment options, coordinating appointment scheduling when needed, identifying and removing barriers to care and serving as liaisons to patients, physicians and hospital staff.
Through a unique system of combined work and collaboration, the Breast Institute furthers its support to anyone with a breast health issue.
“In this work,” Lewis said, “we really do see people becoming the hands and feet of God.”
A key component to the success of the program lies in the personal attention given to each patient by the nurse navigators. Along with Boyd, Imaging Nurse Navigator Andrea Wilson, LVN, and Breast Cancer Nurse Navigator Makenzie Turner guide their patients through the entire process of care.
“Once a patient comes to see us, Andrea starts the process of imaging,” Boyd said. “She will help the patient with scheduling their radiologist appointment, reminds them of their appointments and will go with them to the appointment if they want. She helps them understand their treatment options, and becomes their friend and advocate.”
In the cases of cancer patients, Turner does the same.
“Makenzie stands in the gap for them,” Boyd said. “She gives them such a positive experience through her guidance that they become family.”
An additional service provided to patients is genetic screening through a program called MyGeneticsTree, in which patients can complete a free assessment online. The 15-minute question and answer assessment collects and evaluates the patient’s history and risk of Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Syndrome (HVOC). Afterwards, there is follow up by the Breast Institute Team, which may recommend more testing or genetic counseling.
Boyd said her team also helps with personalized plans and prevention strategies for those who find they may be at risk.
“We look for every opportunity,” Boyd said. “We constantly ask ourselves, ‘Now, how can we get this done? How can we meet this need?’”
In two years, the Hendrick Breast Institute, which is accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers, has made truth of both Lampert’s and Boyd’s words, impacting patients and families across the Texas Midwest. Boyd and her team at the Breast Institute have daily reminders that the reach of their work is immeasurable. Boyd said she feels the hand of God every day as she interacts with patients and their families.
Some sweet memories, including one message Boyd has saved for many months on her answering machine, have cemented her sense of purpose in her job.
“This lady wasn’t our patient, but she had bilateral mastectomy,” Boyd said. “Then, she heard about us and called to ask if we could help her with a prescription for special post-surgical garments.”
On the voicemail, the patient asks Boyd if she can help her, if she can tell her where to go for the prescription and the process for being fitted.
“Of course we helped her!” Boyd said. “Then, we went with her for her fitting, and when she walked out of the curtain, there were tears of joy because she was walking with her shoulders pulled back and with dignity.”
“How can you not see God’s hand in that?” Boyd asked.
Patient impact is only half the story. Working at the Breast Institute has changed the lives of the staff, too. In Boyd’s heart and in her mind, no job could ever match the one she has now.
“I couldn’t tell you what I make an hour. I really have no idea,” Boyd said, pointing to the open door of her office. “My rewards come through that door.”
Janera Naron serves as the Web, Projects & Publications Coordinator for Hendrick Health System.