Nurse navigator CoKeisha Van Hook has worked in the BJC Health Care system for 14 years, as a patient care assistant, clerical associate, team leader and nursing supervisor. Van Hook was the first nurse navigator at Christian to work with all patients with cancer.
“Not just only breast, lung, colon, lymphomas, leukemias, I help a wide range of patients with different types of cancers,” Van Hook said. “It takes dedication and you have to be committed to it, because it’s not an easy job.”
As a nurse navigator, Van Hook advocates for patients by getting them the support and information needed to navigate the health care system.
“I’m kind of proactive in helping them get their Medicaid started, to look for insurers, helping them find primary care physicians, helping them with utility assistance, transportation, nutrition support and even psychological support as well,” she said.
Van Hook receives notification of new patients upon a positive cancer diagnosis.
“I reach out to them to see what they need,” she said. “I really love that, because I have the opportunity to help to guide them through what is going to happen from admission all the way out to the time of discharge.”
Many clients come in as outpatients, and she works on their behalf as well.
“I try to meet with them on their first initial visit to see the doctor,” she said.
Creating stronger health literacy by translating doctor-speak into everyday language is an important part of what she does.
“Sometimes physicians have a habit of not putting stuff in layman’s terms. I have an opportunity to put it in a perspective of what this means to you to better understand your diagnosis,” Van Hook said.
Sometimes deciphering diagnoses and treatments leaves sick patients and their family with very tough choices to make. Nevertheless, Van Hook said her support extends from diagnosis to survival to the end of life.
“I have encountered people who come in and their diagnosis was just that poor to whereas there was nothing else that physician could do for them, and they went on hospice support,” Van Hook said.
Van Hook coordinates a monthly Beyond Breast Cancer Support Group.
She is also the nurse educator for oncology nursing staff, making sure they comply with licensing, annual skills and other requirements.
Van Hook graduated from Gateway Institute for Technology in St. Louis Public Schools. She earned an associate’s degree in nursing from St. Louis Community College at Forest Park. Van Hook earned her bachelor of science in nursing by enrolling in the RN to BSN program at Phoenix University.
Van Hook has always been an oncology nurse. She began as a personal care assistant, or CNA, and worked her way up to unit secretary, team leader and nursing supervisor. When a nurse navigator position opened up on the oncology floor, she was well prepared.
“Our main oncology office is accredited by the Commission on Cancer and by 2015, they had to have a nurse navigator in place, so it was the perfect opportunity for me to bridge into that position,” Van Hook said.
She is proud of Christian Hospital’s commitment to the community, reaching into to the community and to churches in North St. Louis County.
“It helps to bring their take on what Christian Hospital as a whole needs to improve our reputation in the community and provide the services that are needed in the community,” she said.
Van Hook also boasted about the hospital’s recently remodeled oncology floor, which now includes some hospice suites.
“It is so beautiful here. It is really, really a nice unit,” she said. “Even with processes and changes, things have improved for the better for patients and their families and even for the employees.”
“I love what I do,” she said. “I love taking care of people, and I love that patients with cancer have someone they can depend on in their time of need.”