Nicole Phillips never intended to work in the medical field. Her discomfort with needles and wounds seemed like obvious reasons to eliminate medicine as a career interest. It wasn’t until Phillips had two personal interactions with hospitals, and saw firsthand the impact medical care can bring, that she changed her career from engineering to medicine.
After completing her Bachelors of Science in Nursing from Oakland University, Phillips spent a few years working in the surgical ICU before coming to Crittenton as the Oncology Nurse Navigator. The role allows her to help oncology patients through all steps of the medical care journey, a task that is close to her heart after previously caring for her father as he fought lung cancer.
“I balanced a full-time job and full-time studies while taking care of my dad during his treatments. I know that one simple detail, like an appointment being more efficient or convenient, can make a difference in someone’s week or month,” explained Philips.
Your Advocate from Day One
Phillips lovingly sums up her role as being her patients’ best friend. Once a patient has a cancer diagnosis, or is having work done because of a suspicious mass, Phillips is involved. “My role is to provide efficient holistic care that is tailored to individual patients.”
What, exactly, does that entail? After a confirmed cancer diagnosis, patients begin a medical care journey that can feel both overwhelming and complex. Phillips is involved with each patient to help them schedule the right appointments, overcome barriers like transportation, work with nutritionists, assist with education about procedures and treatments, and even work with patients while they talk to their families and friends.
“It’s very individualized,” said Phillips of her work. “I know that this can be one of the hardest times that an individual goes through.” But it is the opportunity to help them through this process that motivates and encourages Phillips every day.
“A lot of times I can hear the frustration in people’s voices; I can see the burden they are carrying just in the way they hold themselves,” said Phillips. “At the end of working together, I hear laughter again.”
She adds that this transformation is why she continues to work in medicine. “I am happy to do whatever I can in order to see that transformation in someone and to know that I made a difference for them.”
Walking in Another’s Shoes
One of the reasons Phillips continues to be so dedicated to her patients is because she has gone through a lot of it herself.
Phillips believes everyone has a story, and her own story makes her no stranger to navigating medical care. “My son is physically handicapped from a neuromuscular disease. It’s a continuous journey of appointments, reassessing his needs and working with multiple specialists. Having to balance that care, work and family life can be a struggle,” she said. Helping others navigate and overcome the overwhelming process is why she chose medicine. “I am so grateful to have found this career in which I feel so fulfilled.”
Excited for the Future
Looking ahead, Philips says that she continues to be excited about the future of care at Crittenton. “It’s very rewarding and exciting to be here as we grow the oncology services,” said Philips. Just recently, Crittenton introduced 3D mammography to their list of services. ” 3D mammography lets physicians diagnose cancer with fewer callbacks, which means less time that patients have to be in the office. It’s more efficient for the patient, and physicians are able to catch cancers earlier,” explained Philips.
She continued that the expansion of care within the Breast Center goes beyond new technology, but also to the physical environment. “We want it to be a welcoming and inviting place,” she said. “If you are spending your time with us, we want to provide you care in an environment that is as comfortable and relaxing as possible.”
Nicole Phillips received her nursing degree from Oakland University. She obtained her Critical Care certificate and Direct Action Organizing training from the American Cancer Society where she is an ambassador that advocates for beneficial legislation on cancer. She has also helped raise over $50,000 for cancer research as a Captain for our Rochester Relay for Life team.