Spotlight on Nancy N. and J.C. Lewis Cancer & Research Pavilion nurse navigator Dana Coleman

Dana Coleman, BSN, RN, OCN

Dana Coleman

Oncology Nurse Navigator Manager & Melongrapher

Education: Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Georgia Southern University

SJ/C: Why did you become a nurse?

Dana: I felt the call for serving people and making the community healthier by promoting wellness and making sure people got access to what they needed in regards to healthcare and medicine. My first career choice was for a degree in pharmacy. I had worked in a retail pharmacy during high school and college, but the industry and insurance regulations started to change, and I realized I could promote better health and lifestyle through nursing.

SJ/C: Why did you choose St. Joseph’s/Candler?

Dana: When I came to Savannah, I knew I wanted to be a part of the St. Joseph’s/Candler system. I have a sense of system loyalty and am committed to the mission, vision and values that make up the SJ/C health system. We are faith based, and that means a lot to me when we are taking care of patients. It’s not just the bottom line we look at. We really want to promote and treat all patients. I also was a part of the process when we went for our Magnet Designation. It was easy to obtain the designation because we practiced evidence based care and always looked to improve and refine the process. I really got to meet people that I wouldn’t normally have while collaborating on the team.

SJ/C: What influenced your decision to go into oncology?

Dana: I started with oncology (the study and treatment of cancer and tumors) in 2000 and that was about two years out of nursing school. Going into a specialty was a big decision because once you go into that specialized route you tend to maintain that course the rest of your nursing career. I’m happy, and I love what I do. I know it’s at other people’s expense, but if I can make their time easier and better for the caregiver to take care of that patient, it’s worth doing.

SJ/C: What are some of your responsibilities as a nurse navigator?

Dana: I help patients and caregivers access the care they deserve. I help educate them through their oncology experience to make them feel like they’re in the right place and don’t have to seek care anywhere else. That’s through education and making sure they know we stay educated as health care professionals. We do not stop reading and studying. We stay up to date. We have the designation of The Commission on Cancer accreditation that recognizes the LCRP’s commitment to providing the best care. There are a lot of standards you have to meet, and the last time we got certified, we got Gold, which is the highest certification. We are really proud of what we’ve done, and it’s all these pieces working together to provide the most up-to-date, outstanding care for the patients.

SJ/C: Why did you decided to become a nurse navigator?

Dana: When I came to work in Savannah, I began in the oncology track and stayed in the field due to the dedication that I saw by the oncology physicians and support staff. They weren’t just about the disease of cancer. They could promote wellness and get things going back on the right course, even for the caregivers. So years later, I went from the hospital inpatient setting to outpatient chemotherapy and infusion, and in 2008, to the new role of oncology nurse navigation. I look at patients and tell them, ‘You and the cancer are not the stigma; it’s a disease; it can happen to anyone. We all have cancer cells, however, your body failed to stop that one.’ We treat this like a disease just like you would take medications for diabetes or heart disease. We try to reset the body to do right. These last two diseases are just as deadly, but patients and family don’t view heart disease and diabetes as serious as cancer. This is what we need to change and promote health of the whole body.

My personal experience with my father is another reason. He lived six weeks after being diagnosed with esophageal cancer.  There was no navigation when we went through our experience and we definitely could have benefited greatly. So he’s one of those driving reasons why I dedicate my career to navigation. I didn’t want other people to go through what we went through. It was a difficult time. No one should have to go through that.

SJ/C: What would you say are some of the harder aspects of the job, especially working in oncology?

Dana: The hard things that you have to overcome are really knowing yourself and being comfortable in your faith and beliefs to help anyone. No one patient is a VIP. Every patient is a VIP. We all can be affected by cancer at any point in our life and healthcare providers, such as myself and doctors, are not immune to this. That’s how I approach my day, and I’m open for anything that happens because I’ve learned you can’t predict the future of a person’s need, or set a rigid schedule. The day is going to make itself no matter what you got planned and you just work with it. If wiping tears is needed, I’m there. Same thing for celebrating the ‘ringing of the bell’ for someone finishing treatment. We are ready to cheer and clap, celebrate and take pictures for them. Then we run to the next thing – teaching tube feeding procedure or triaging a sick patient.

SJ/C: What would you say are some of the more gratifying moments working at the Lewis Cancer & Research Pavilion?

Dana: A lot of times we don’t necessarily get to see it, but we try to make a big deal when they ring that bell out front in the lobby, so seeing my patients ring that bell is gratifying. (Ringing the bell in the LCRP lobby signifies the conclusion of your cancer treatment.) To see them come back in a month for a follow-up visit and I see hair growing – that’s special. To see them overall just feeling better because you can tell it in their face – their color is a little bit pinker and their smile is bigger. Just those little things like that. And they don’t have to, but it’s nice to just hear, ‘Thank you.’ I got an email the other day and the lady calls me her little angel. It’s nice to hear that because some days you get beat down. She said, ‘I definitely wouldn’t have made it through without you being there.’ It seems they tell me that on days I really need to hear it because there are days when you feel like you’ve done everything you can and it still wasn’t enough. God sends those words and encouragement at the right time.

SJ/C: What advice would you offer to new nurses or those considering a career in nursing?

Treat the human being that is right in front of you. It’s not a number, a room assignment or a case, that is a vulnerable patient. They have feelings. They are not digital, technology devices. A lot of people just need to be actively listened to, so listen to your patient. We need nurses. Anyone thinking about becoming a nurse, we need you on all levels, whether it’s screening, outpatient or inpatient. I just love oncology nursing and know that others would find it as rewarding as I do.


Achievements: The love and support of my patients
Family: I love my family – my mom is my  biggest cheerleader, as well as my four sisters. My husband is proud of me too and supportive, and I have the unconditional love of two English bullies, Ruby and Pearl!
Hobbies/Interests: Mysteries, relationships, nursing and nature


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