Nurse helps patients navigate cancer treatments

Posted 6/29/21

Six weeks ago, Amber Mangus joined Powell Valley Healthcare’s oncology team as a patient navigator. For those facing a cancer diagnosis, Mangus helps ease some of the burdens they …

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Nurse helps patients navigate cancer treatments


Six weeks ago, Amber Mangus joined Powell Valley Healthcare’s oncology team as a patient navigator. For those facing a cancer diagnosis, Mangus helps ease some of the burdens they endure.

“It’s my job to be a good support system for the patients, their families, and their caregivers,” she explains. “It’s helping them through this journey. It’s helping them with diagnoses, from starting the treatment to celebrating the positives, the good outcomes.” 

Nobody expects to be faced with a cancer diagnosis, Mangus said, which is worrying enough without all the myriad of challenges that goes with it.

Part of what Mangus does is help her patients sort out the financial challenges of their treatment. That includes navigating the insurance and making sure things are moving forward. Mangus can put patients in touch with financial assistance. Not only are the patients trying to pay for their treatment, they often can’t work. This makes paying all their other bills challenging. Mangus works with patients to determine their needs — whether it’s help with groceries, rent or co-pay costs — and then find resources to help. 

She also helps find travel resources. Chemotherapy leaves patients drained and ill, and trying to drive home, especially in inclement weather, is difficult if not impossible. She works with the patient’s own network of family and friends, or seeks out community resources that can provide that help.

Besides getting people to their appointments, she also calls them to make sure they know when the appointments are and what they need to do to prepare. 

“I really get to know them and help this process go a little bit more smoothly,” Mangus said. 

Yet, it’s more than just forms and resources. There’s a personal dimension to her role, as the journey through cancer treatment is as emotionally challenging as it is physically. 

One patient who was just starting her infusions was feeling particularly anxious about it all, and Mangus just sat with her while she got that first treatment. 

“This is a really scary time for people. There’s a lot of people out there that have said, when they’re first diagnosed with cancer, they feel very alone,” Mangus said. “It can get emotional because I do care for my patients a lot.” 

She can also help put them in touch with mental health resources, some of which are available over phone or Zoom meetings.

Mangus earned her nursing degree at the University of Wyoming. She considered becoming a doctor, but after starting a family, she was more reluctant to go to the time and expense of getting a medical degree. Also, as a doctor, she’d have to specialize, whereas nursing offers a lot more flexibility to move around to different areas. 

“If you get tired of one field and a little burnt out, you can go try something new,” Mangus said. 

She’s looking forward to the opening of the hospital’s infusion center, which should be in the next few months. It will provide a more comfortable space for the patients, and the hospital is nearing the approvals it needs to prepare the infusion drugs at the hospital. 

Currently, PVHC receives the drugs from Billings Clinic, and while the clinic is great to work with, Mangus said removing that step will be a big benefit to the community.

“We’re really trying to make it as convenient for the patient as possible,” she said. 

Mangus said her work is made all the more enjoyable by the staff in PVHC’s oncology department. She also had a lot of praise for the hospital’s oncology doctor, Carletta Collins. 

“She is the strongest advocate for her patients. Our community and our hospital are very lucky to have her,” Mangus said. 

Cancer is certainly not a word anyone wants to hear from their doctor. Having someone who can help them navigate the treatment can make a difference.

“I’m really excited to be here and to be a part of these patients’ lives,” Mangus said. “And hopefully I can just make it a little bit better.”