When it comes to dealing with cancer, a diagnosis and the treatment programs that follow can feel overwhelming to patients and their families.

Riverside Tappahannock Hospital and its administrative team understands and is pleased to welcome AnnMarie Simmons, BSN, RN, OCN, as the hospital's Cancer Program Coordinator and Nurse Navigator, a new position created earlier this year with two different roles. 

AnnMarie SimmonsAs a Cancer Program Coordinator, Simmons role is to establish cancer screening programs for the community. "There is so much to do, and it's such a needed service for the community here, we've already hit the ground running," Simmons said, highlighting plans to host a education and screening events this year.

And as a Nurse Navigator, Simmons' role is to "guide patients through their cancer journey, from the point cancer is suspected through treatment and into survivorship or end of life care," Simmons said. "We help them understand their diagnosis, get appointments scheduled, find resources in the community and help the families with support and guidance."

From a medical standpoint, Simmons added, nurse navigators also help patients understand why certain treatments are prescribed. 

"We try to help them understand their cancer and treatment," Simmons said. "It's not uncommon for a new cancer patient to talk to friends who also have been treated for cancer and wonder why their treatment is different."

That's an important element, Simmons said, because often it's the treatments that patients fear the most.

"Patients can be terrified in the beginning, but if we can help them get a grasp on the treatments they are going through it can put them at ease and give them hope," Simmons said.

There is no charge for the program, Simmons said, either to patients or their insurance carriers.

Simmons comes to Riverside following nearly 25 years in nursing, all of which included working in cancer in some form, from pediatric cancer to home health, bone marrow transplant care and end of life support. 

Her most recent role was with HCA in Spotsylvania County, where she was the cancer nurse navigator.

Originally from Philadelphia, Simmons started her nursing career in Texas when her military husband was stationed there. She earned her undergraduate degree in nursing from the University of Texas Health Science Center School of Nursing at San Antonio, and is working on finishing her graduate degree in nursing from Liberty University.

The role of the nurse navigator grew in popularity in the 1990s when underinsured cancer patients weren't getting the follow up care they needed for their treatment. 

"AnnMarie is a strong addition to our cancer program and will certainly be a benefit to our patients and community," said Esther Desimini, Vice President/Administrator of Riverside Tappahannock Hospital, also an oncology nursing specialist who has worked with Simmons for years and has seen the impact of the breast oncology and cancer screening programs she's built.

"One of the things we are moving toward here will be a breast team, where you'll have your surgeon and your radiologist, and your medical oncologist, reviewing your case together," Desimini said. "Right now they sort of do it linearly."

Simmons, in her role as Cancer Program Coordinator will also be layering in robust screening programs and teaching the community how vitally important screenings are for early detection of cancer. 

By the end of the year, Simmons said, two events will be scheduled –one on lymphedema in breast cancer patients and one tied to prostate cancer awareness month.

To learn more about the oncology program and nurse coordinator in Tappahannock, Simmons encourages the community and patients to reach out to her directly at 804-443-6203.

"We are actively working with the community, putting a face on this program," Simmons said. "We are here if you need us."

Published: June 2, 2016