Amy DePue is a member of the Education Council and has been affiliated with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) breast oncology group since 2011. She is currently an Oncology Nurse Navigator at UNC where she identifies gaps and barriers in healthcare and helps patients, families, and caregivers overcome these obstacles before, during and after treatment.
Who is Amy DePue
Amy found her passion for nurse navigation when she was a nurse on a med/surg floor tending to mastectomy patients recovering from surgery. One patient was experiencing depression, isolation and felt she was a burden to her family. After speaking to the patient’s husband, Amy learned that both he and his wife were largely ill-prepared for what would happen during recovery after she was discharged from the hospital.
The husband felt uncomfortable, not knowing what would be helpful or how to best care for his wife. They also did not know whom to speak with about any needs, either physical or for mental distress so Amy discussed some of these things with them but was surprised that nothing had been reinforced for them by their healthcare team in terms of teaching what the needs might be, physically or otherwise.
After speaking with the surgical team, Amy learned that this information is given during the first post-op appointment visit. This was when she knew something more had to be done.
Patients need a multi-disciplinary approach that spans a wide range of services including those that are medically related. There are complex circumstances each individual will face. It could be deciding whether to use money for gas to get treatment versus buying groceries for the table and it takes a team to listen, to communicate, and to truly care in order to provide the very best care possible. This is what motivates Amy to come to work each day, knowing that there is something she can do to help.
So now, more than a decade later, many facilities have navigation programs. In oncology, the addition of the navigator role has made it possible for patients to understand their diagnosis more completely and what they might expect from treatment. But something else that has become apparent is that it isn’t just learning the specifics about the diagnosis or how best to treat a side effect from chemotherapy. It’s about closing the gap to care by way of providing the patient with all the tools necessary and making them available for use.
“My view on closing the gap for patients comes down to this: we are all talking about what can be done to close gaps. We can continue discussing how to do this, but we really need to talk about what is being done, what has worked, what more needs to be done, in order to help shift the talk into action,” Amy added.
In 1977 Amy was Big 12 Conference Champion for Oratorical Declamation in Champaign, Illinois. She recited a piece written by Tom Wolfe from his collection “The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby.” This experience gave her the necessary tools to speak in front of large crowds both in-person and via webinars today.
Amy is “owned” by two golden retrievers and a golden retriever wanna be. Max, Levi and Arlo are remarkable and have a combined weight of 275 pounds. Every morning, she takes the time to walk each dog separately, and her neighbors know her as the dog lady.