Supporting patients in challenging times
Patient satisfaction is hardwired into Kathy Kriner.
Retired from a career in account management, Kriner was inspired to become a volunteer patient navigator after she had the experience of caring for her mom at the end of her life. Kriner saw first-hand the complexities surrounding the health care and legal systems, and she was driven to help others connect with resources during challenging times.
Since April 2022, Kriner has been a volunteer patient navigator at UCHealth Seniors Clinic – Anschutz Medical Campus.
Volunteer patient navigators increase the bandwidth of the care management team. Volunteer patient navigators receive referrals from the care management team to take care of non-clinical needs, such as connecting patients with local or national support resources.
Kriner has a group of patients she regularly checks in with, though her responsibilities vary weekly, depending on the needs of her patients. This includes arranging travel for upcoming doctor’s appointments, connecting patients to community based resources and checking in with patients who may be socially isolated.
Occasionally, Kriner works on some unorthodox referrals like one that thrilled an elderly Denver woman. It began with Maria Vejar, who holds a doctorate of nursing practice, and cares for patients at UCHealth Seniors Clinic – Anschutz Medical Campus. She heard about her 96-year-old patient’s dream to travel to Jackson, Mississippi to visit her parents’ gravesites – a trip her patient was unable to make for over 50 years.
Vejar identified an opportunity to fulfill her patient’s dream through AARP’s Wish of a Lifetime Program, and she referred the patient to Sarah Abbott, volunteer patient navigator program coordinator at UCHealth, and the volunteer patient navigator team.
Kriner was asked to help, and she immediately got to work.
She assisted the patient in completing the application for AARP’s Wish of a Lifetime Program. Once the application was accepted, Kriner helped manage logistics needed for a successful trip. The patient needed to travel with oxygen, so Kriner coordinated with the airline and medical supply company to ensure the patient had the correct instructions and equipment for traveling.
Vejar remained integral in getting the trip finalized, as physician input and approvals were required throughout the process. Everyone involved was dedicated to making this trip happen for the patient.
With the details finalized, the patient and her niece made the all-expenses paid pilgrimage to Mississippi to fulfill her wish in October 2022.
Kriner spoke with the patient a few days after her return.
“She was so appreciative of the opportunity,” Kriner said. “She said it was so good to see her existing family in Mississippi. And, of course, there’s the visit to the gravesite which she describes as bittersweet.”
The patient’s reaction was “just so touching and so rewarding.”
Kriner’s experience as a volunteer patient navigator has “been fabulous.”
“Every day is different,” Kriner said. “Every patient has a different set of needs. It’s good to feel like you’re helping these people who may not have easy access to resources.”