Navigating the Way: New Respiratory Care Navigator Helps Patients with COPD
by Sarah McClanahan
For seven years, Buffy Chapman, BA, RRT, helped Lexington Medical Center inpatients alleviate symptoms of chronic respiratory diseases as an inpatient respiratory therapist. But it’s in her new role as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patient navigator that she’s able to make a difference in the lives of COPD patients and families after they leave the hospital.“I help COPD patients understand what is happening to their bodies. I teach them how the medications they take can affect their breathing and help them discover ways to improve their overall health. I also advocate for their needs with providers throughout LMC’s network,” said Buffy.
A COPD patient navigator’s primary focus is to educate patients and families about self-management and assist in transitioning patients from acute care to outpatient management. Often, there is little continuity of care after discharge for COPD patients. When they leave the hospital, they may not understand which medications to use and when, how to properly use inhalers or what effects COPD can have on their bodies.
As the hospital’s COPD patient navigator, Buffy is able to work with patients during their stay at LMC and continue to assist them after they are discharged from the hospital, maintaining the same level of care throughout their transition home and into the outpatient setting.
According to Buffy, many of the processes required to get patients the help they need at home are complicated and difficult for patients and families to navigate.
“COPD patient navigators have the ability collaborate with other members of the health care team to carry patients through those processes and access resources so that they have the best possible chance for success,” she said.
Buffy also supports families of COPD patients, helping them come to terms with and understand their diagnosis, and she encourages those with COPD to participate in pulmonary rehabilitation.
“COPD is a chronic illness. As a navigator, I can help these patients move in the direction of maintaining and, in many cases, improving their quality of life.”