GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA)– May is “National Nurses Month.”

There are around 4 million registered nurses in the U.S. and some of them also serve as nurse navigators, going the extra mile to help patients understand and navigate their treatment.

As part of our “Ask the Expert” series, in partnership with Bon Secours St. Francis, 7News Anchor Taylor Murray spoke with a nurse navigator and a patient who was glad to have one.

When a patient faces a new diagnosis, understanding the treatment process can sometimes be overwhelming and confusing.

Debby Byrnes received a difficult diagnosis back in 2016.

“My diagnosis ended up being stage four metastatic breast cancer,” Byrnes said.

Byrnes said she wasn’t expected to survive the first year, but now six years later…

“I call them my guardian angels,” Byrnes said.

Those guardian angels, Byrnes says, are the team of doctors, nurses, and nurse navigators who have helped monitor her care and treatment.

The reason, she believes, she’s still alive.

Sarah Batson is Debby Byrnes’ nurse navigator.

“For me with a breast cancer patient, I see them through their journey, kind of until they’re in surveillance,” Byrnes said.

“A nurse navigator is usually a nurse that takes her clinical skill set and utilizes it to address any barriers to care, and assists in all the immense amount of intake the patient gets upon diagnosis.”

Sarah Batson, Nurse Navigator, Bon Secours St. Francis

Nurse navigators also remind patients of appointments, explain medications, and can even connect them to a financial navigator within the hospital system.

Dionne Pringle is a financial navigator.

“We come into play when like a nurse navigator or social worker comes in contact with the patient, who’s in treatment, who has expressed that they need help paying for bills.”

Dionne Pringle, Financial Navigator, Bon Secours St. Francis

Pringle said there are several ways patients can pay for treatment, but many of them don’t know about the options.

“Even though a patient is insured, their out of pocket can still be enormous if there’s copay. We can help mitigate that. There’s also foundations out there, where we can help them apply and reduce the cost of treatment as well,” Pringle said.

Debby Byrnes said her navigators not only provided support with finances and treatment but also emotional support.

“We knew the gravity of the situation, yet, what we were looking for was the hope within the situation and moving forward in a hopeful way,” Byrnes said.

Today, Debby Byrnes is still fighting strong.

Her cancer markers have gone down, which is evidence treatment is working.

If you think you could benefit from having a nurse navigator, reach out to your primary care provider to request one.