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Let's Break to Educate: Cancer Care Support Services

October 03, 2021 Posted in: Cancer Care  10 minute read time


Natalie Cooper, MHA, market manager of Oncology Support Services

Good morning. My name is Natalie Cooper, and I am the market manager of Oncology Support Services. I'm joined today by Ellie, one of our social workers, Hannah, our registered dietitian, and Jason, our financial navigator. We are here today to answer questions to help you understand why our support services are so important for patients. I may be a little biased, but I think our support services are one of the primary reasons that our cancer centers stand out here at CHI Saint Joseph Health. So, before we get started, our team members are going to provide a brief overview of their role, and then we'll dive into other roles that are not represented in person today.

Ellie Cook, MSSW, CSW, Oncology Clinic Social Worker

Hi, I'm Ellie Cook. I'm the social worker at our Blazer Parkway location. Martha Keys is the social worker at our Bob-O-Link location. As social workers, our primary responsibility is to help connect patients and family with resources, with financial resources, maybe transportation and lodging, and we're also responsible for support groups. I'm responsible for our Rosie Ring ladies support group.

Hannah Newsome, RD, CSO, LD, Clinical Dietitian

I'm Hannah Newsome, and I am a registered dietician and a board-certified dietitian in oncology nutrition. I work with our patients to get them through treatment so they can maintain a good nutritional status, and I also work with our patients once they have completed cancer treatments for optimal nutrition.

Jason Spalding, Financial Navigator

Hello, my name is Jason Spalding and I'm the financial navigator for the cancer center. It's a newer position that was brought in about a couple of years ago to meet the needs of our patients. Our director, Greg Bodager, had a direct vision with this program, and with that, he brought in outside sources to help develop the financial navigator role, especially - number one, to put our patients first, and number two, to find all the resources that are out there to help both our patients and our hospital. I work with all areas of our support team to help our patients and to navigate them into whatever needs they may have.

When you first come into our cancer center, my job is to run your insurance to see what type of coverage you have. And then with that, along with your diagnosis, I determine what type of assistance that you may need and that's available to you if you need it. I also carry the title of a billing specialist, so I work with the billing department to give our patients the documents they need …  some of them have cancer policies. And I work with any concern. I'm like a liaison for the patients with the billing department with any concerns or questions.

What are Cancer Care Support Services?


Alright. So, our first question that we're going to address today is, what does support services mean in the cancer center? Hannah, will you answer that question?


In addition to our providers and other clinical staff members, our support services team is a multidisciplinary team that provides additional support that may be required during cancer treatments. So, in addition to me, the dietician, our financial counselors, social work, and many, many others, but we just provide additional support.


Thanks. Can each of you share some of the different types of support services that are available to patients and their families while they're on their cancer journey?


Well, there's social work, financial navigation, nurse navigators to help you with your cancer journey, language services, which helps with translators that we might need.


There's also, of course, the nutritional services. We have the chemotherapy prep clinic. We have the cancer prevention screenings, and then we have our survivorship clinic. And, basically with our survivorship clinic, we have a cancer care team who will assess the patients throughout treatment for nutritional rehabilitation, financial, psychological needs, and make referrals applicable for the survivorship. And then Ellie will later explain more how it all works.


We also have a research team built for clinical trials and research opportunities. We make referrals to physical therapy, as well as mental health and counseling. We have spiritual careand chaplaincy, and we have support groups. Right now, they'll be on Zoom, but hopefully they'll be in person again soon.


Absolutely. Thank you. Ellie, would you mind explaining a little bit more about what our survivorship program looks like?


Survivorship in cancer is talking about the health and well-being of the cancer patient from diagnosis to basically end of their life. This includes answering patients’ and families’ questions and concerns about their physical, emotional, and financial changes that might occur. After a patient has completed their treatment, they're scheduled for a survivorship visit. During that visit, they're given a care plan, and the care plan is actually a summary of their cancer journey. They're also given information in this visit about support groups, maybe nutritional tips, and information that they might need for screenings in the future should their cancer re-occur. This program is really a final touch in their cancer journey and hopefully prepares the patient and family for the next phase of their life.

What is the Cost for Support Services?


Thank you, Ellie. Jason, would you mind talking a little bit about the question, will a patient receive a bill for any of the support services they receive?


Absolutely not. These support services are an additional way to support our patients and their families. So this is all free of charge.

Are Support Services Available to Patient Families?


Okay. Ellie, can you speak to how our support services provide additional support to patient's family members, in addition to just the patient?


We help families much the same way we help patients. We connect them to resources. We help answer the questions that they might have about insurance or financial situations. We provide assistance with grants and things that might help with financial situations. We help with transportation. Sometimes people need assistance with lodging. And we also connect them again with support groups and counseling.

What Role Does Nutrition Play in Cancer Care Support?


What about nutrition and cancer? Why is it so important to have a registered dietician to help patients with nutrition during their cancer journey?


Unfortunately, many cancer treatments can result in nutrition-related side effects, such as unintended weight loss, poor appetite, taste changes and nausea. I am board certified in oncology nutrition to help our patients manage those things while they complete treatment. In addition, I also provide a wide variety of free supplements, which can be helpful in helping our patients maintain their weight and providing nutrition when eating is just not as easy as it used to be.

What Financial Support Resources Are Available for Patients?


Jason, can you speak to the resources that are available to assist patients from a financial standpoint?


We have a few resources that we use. We first have our hospital financial assistance, and that's run by a patient advocate, Christina Whitaker. Basically she will screen you, especially our new patients, upon coming in to see if you qualify for Medicaid and/or our financial assistance through the hospital. And speaking of the financial assistance, how it works, it's basically income-based. So, depending on how much you or your family makes, it's based on that. And you can be 100% approved or it can have about 50% or 25%, so on and so forth. So, we have that installed. I personally will take up the initiative to check people's personal insurance and private insurance. So, what that means is insurance that is paid for privately through the patient and not through an employer.

And most of that, we try to steer all the patients toward the Kentucky marketplace, especially now that our president has put the stimulus package in there. So, it doesn't matter if you make $30,000 a year or $100,000 a year, it's can still save you money, getting insurance through the Kentucky marketplace. And some people even actually will qualify for free insurance through it. So, that's a great thing. We will coach all patients that are interested and their families to pick the best insurance possible that will help them, provide coverage for them and their family through this marketplace.

We also have the City Job Foundation that we work with. They've been pretty much a guide to us. They help us with assistance with lodging, transportation. They also help patients pay for copays, such as on their scanning services or anything that a patient possibly would need, they have grants and funding to help us. They encourage us to reach out all the time, so we use them quite a lot.

One of the other ones is pharmaceutical co-pay assistance. That's the ones for our patients who have chemo. So, pharmaceuticals have programs to assist our patients; some, not all, but we have a lot of resources to work around, but they pretty much pay for the drug itself for the patients that qualify for this, so that helps out a lot. 

One of the last things we would look at is our cancer grants that are shared all over the world that's diagnosis-specific. So, let's say pancreas cancer or pancreatic cancer, we look on there and try to find grants. I get alerts on my phone and through email when one comes open, and we try to jump on the computer and sign a patient up if we have some available for those, because if I could get it, it's shared across the world, so those go quickly.

Cancer Care Support Groups


Thank you. Ellie, would you mind talking a little bit more about support groups, and are the support groups open to the community?


Our support groups are open to the community. We encourage everyone to participate that would like to. We have several. I'm responsible, as I mentioned earlier, for our Rosie Ring support group. It's a ladies group that meets every Tuesday at 11:00 a.m.. We have speakers sometimes. Sometimes we just talk. That's every Tuesday at 11:00. We've been meeting by Zoom, but hopefully we'll be meeting in person sometime soon. We also have a prostate support group that meets the third Thursday of every month at 6:30. It's also by Zoom. And again, we're hoping to start doing some in-person as well. There are two other support groups that are available through our London location via Zoom. There's a caregiver support group that's Tuesday at 3:00, and a patient support group that's Thursday at 3:00, again, through our London location.


Thank you. Alright. It looks like we're down to our last question and I'm actually going to jump in and answer this question. And that is, how can patients connect with someone at the cancer center? 

CHI Saint Joseph Health actually has a one call number for everything you need. And that is 844.940.HOPE, which is 4673 as the last four digits. So, you can call for an oncology consult. You can call for a second opinion. Or, if you're interested in scheduling a cancer screening, which is a mammogram, a colonoscopy, cervical, prostate, or a lung screening, we have teams that are ready to schedule you for those preventative screenings, as well as schedule you for that consult, the second opinion visit with our oncology providers.

So, that sums up our questions. Thank you for taking the time to join us today. Please give us a call at 844.940.HOPE with any questions or appointment requests, and you can also learn more about the CHI Saint Joseph Health – Cancer Care Center by visiting Thank you.


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