Nurse Navigator - Heather Wright-Renick BSN, RN, CN-BN
Heather Wright-Renick is a certified nurse navigator and the Program Director of The Breast Center at St. Catherine Hospital. Her story is unlike others in that she is a breast cancer survivor and was offered the task of putting this program together after completion of her own therapy. She will absolutely inspire you to push your limits and over come any obstacles in your path!
Lemons to Lemonade
The phrase, “you never know what someone is going thru until you have walked a mile in their shoes”, is perfect for this nurse entrepreneur. May 21st, 2012 was the beginning of a life altering journey for Heather Wright-Renick. She was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer at the age of 33. “It is now understood that breast cancer is not one form of cancer, but many different subtypes of cancer. These subtypes are based on the presence, or lack of, three “receptors” known to fuel most breast cancers: estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors and human epidural growth factor receptor 2 (HER2). The most successful treatments for breast cancer target these receptors. Women with triple negative breast cancer, none of these receptors are found. In a triple negative breast cancer, diagnosis means that the offending tumor is estrogen receptor- negative, progesterone receptor-negative, and HER2- negative, thus the name “triple negative”. This cancer is typically responsive to chemotherapy. Because of the triple negative status, however, tumors generally do not respond to receptor target treatments. Depending on the stage of its diagnosis, triple negative breast cancer can be particularly aggressive and more likely to recur than other types of cancer.”
Heather was a practicing nurse at the time of her diagnosis, working toward her goal of receiving her BSN from the University of Kansas. She had been working as a bedside nurse for 13 years, truly enjoying what she was doing. Heather had started her career as an LPN in long term care, then went to St. Catherine Hospital where she worked on Medical/Surgical unit 5 years before transferring to Intensive care where she worked for the next 5 years. She was chemotherapy certified and also worked prn as a SANE/SART (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) nurse. Her current role was not even on her radar.
After taking time off for completion of chemotherapy and having a bilateral mastectomy, Heather returned to work in February 2013. She was approached by leaders of St. Catherine Hospital about becoming a nurse navigator and playing a pivotal role in starting The Breast Center at St. Catherine Hospital which became NAPBC (National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers) accredited within one year. A cancer patient navigator is an individual trained to help identify and resolve real and perceived barriers to care, enabling patients to adhere to care recommendations and thus improve their cancer outcomes. She is now a certified breast cancer navigator as well as the Director of the Breast Program. In Heather’s words, “I knew being diagnosed would be life changing, but I wasn’t sure of the of the magnitude of the change until I have been able to look back on my life since then. Breast cancer could have been a negatively defining moment both personally and professionally. Instead, it was the catalyst of the next journey in my nursing career.”
Heather said that when she accepted her current position she was scared, excited , and overwhelmed. She asked her bosses, “now what?”, “what do I do?”, “where do I start?”. They told Heather in short, to build a program that would meet HER needs. “I represented every breast cancer patient in our community. I was a mom of two school aged children. I was married to a farmer in a rural community while working as a nurse in a local hospital.” The administration entrusted Heather to build a program that would enable patients to receive comprehensive breast care close to home. “I didn’t know how to build a program or what the administrative side of nursing looked like; but I did know how to be a nurse as well as a patient. I seized that opportunity!”
Heather has two career role models that she mentions as constant inspirations to her. Cathy Huber, RN, with whom she worked with for many years at St. Catherine Hospital on the Med/Surg floor. “She was twice my age and can still run circles around me. Her work ethic is second to none and she leads by example. She doesn’t expect something from her coworkers that she wouldn’t do herself. She instilled in me the importance of taking care of the small details and the necessity of being a lifelong learner.” Heather also is inspired daily by Carol Bush, RN. “She thinks outside of the box, speaks her mind, and is one of the most resourceful people I have ever met. I never hesitate to pick her mind or ask for help. Her enthusiasm is contagious!”
Heather speaks like a true entrepreneur/ intrapreneur when she advises other nurses on nurturing their dynamic innovative spirit. “Start right here, right now, one step at a time, one bite at a time. Allow everyday to be your “Ahh ha” moment. “What one thing do you keep seeing while you’re working that you think, ‘I could do this better,’ or ‘I wish someone would invent this’, or ‘In my spare time I’m going to do this.’” Heather says that some of her greatest joys have come from tackling minor life inconveniences and making the system or workflow better for everyone.
Heather Wright-Renick has one of the most inspiring stories that I have heard. As a continuous learner, she has opened herself to new career challenges and opportunities. She has seized the day many times, which has put her in a place where she affects the life of patients and an entire community with her love of life and career. She tackled cancer head on and decided to grab a life changing offer that would challenge her to push her limits and expand her knowledge base. Heather, like her role model, truly leads by example and experience. She made lemonade from the lemons she was given, and made enough for an entire community to share!
The Breast Center | St. Catherine Hospital | Garden City, Kansas
Understanding Triple Negative Breast CancerLast edit by Joe V on Oct 20
My name is Sarah Matacale RN, BSN, CCS. I have found tremendous enjoyment in writing the stories of nurse innovators who think outside the box to better our profession and healthcare in general.
Joined Jan '17; Posts: 31; Likes: 166.