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Interview with Pancreatic Cancer Nurse Navigator, Patricia Gambino

Nurse navigator Patricia Gambino

Patricia Gambino, MSN, RN is a nurse navigator for GI oncology patients at Abramson Cancer Center. She works closely with the oncology team to offer patients support and guidance throughout their time at Penn. To learn more about her role as a nurse navigator, read our interview with Patricia below:

What does a nurse navigator do?

I direct patients where they need to go, to coordinate their care. I try to maximize the resources in the cancer center to help them get through this very challenging journey.

How do you respond to first-time callers?

We treat a pancreas cancer diagnosis as a medical emergency, as if you were having a heart attack. That’s how urgent we feel it is that patients be seen. If I can’t get someone to a medical oncologist right away, I get them started another way, like with interventional GI.

What do you say to someone who is just diagnosed?

When a person is diagnosed with pancreas cancer, they need to gain some control. All of a sudden, the rug’s been pulled out from under them. I tell them we’re going to do this one step at a time. It’s really important for patients to gain knowledge. I refer them to reliable organizations like the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, the Lustgarten Foundation, and Let’s Win. A lot of patients go online, and find information that is scary or inaccurate.

How do you gain a patient's trust?

When they call me, I answer their calls. People feel so alone and scared. I let them know that I appreciate how distraught they are. It’s very important that patients and families view me as someone they can touch base with. My mother died of pancreas cancer. My son had cancer when he was 11. I get it when patients are in crisis.

Do you have any trade secrets or tips to share?

What's it like to be part of the Pancreatic Research Center? 

It’s extremely exciting because I learn every day. I love the interdisciplinary management of the patient. I connect patients to doctors, social workers, financial counselors, pharmacists, a dietician, and so on. I have an incredible relationship with the doctors. They trust my judgment. I really enjoy working with them.

How are you involved in clinical trials?

Clinical trials are very important in pancreas cancer. I encourage patients to consider trials and help them think about the logistics. I work with the doctors to know what is open and what kind of patients they are looking for.

What do you do in your spare time?

I really like to garden. I exercise because this [work] is stressful. I truly enjoy my grandchildren. Children are so joyful. Spending time with them helps me appreciate the simple things in life.

About This Blog

The Focus on Cancer blog discusses a variety of cancer-related topics, including treatment advances, research efforts and clinical trials, nutrition, support groups, survivorship and patient stories.

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