Jennifer West, B.S.N., R.N., ONN-CG, a clinical trials nurse navigator at the UF Health Cancer Center, has worked for the Cancer Center for nearly 15 years. She began her career with the Cancer Center as a research nurse in the Solid Tumor Office and later spent more than 10 years as a nurse navigator in gastrointestinal oncology.
Q: What is your hometown?
A: I live in High Springs.
Q: Describe your educational and professional background.
A: I have an associate degree in nursing from Santa Fe Community College and a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of South Florida.
I started work as a nurse in oncology at Alachua General Hospital and quickly learned my passion was in the ICU, where I spent 10 years working the night shift between Alachua General Hospital and UF Health. Life through a curveball with 9/11 and my husband was deployed to Iraq for a year. Dr. Thomas Beaver [a professor and chief of cardiovascular surgery at UF] encouraged me to come off the night shift to keep myself busy while he was away. He offered me a job in research working on a project with him and a team from Denmark. It was fascinating. I was hooked on research. I was actively part of the operating room team, drawing/processing blood, coordinating care visits, collecting data and working one on one with this great team.
The study eventually closed and I joined the Cancer Center’Solid Tumor Office. I gained a wealth of experience and knowledge working beside Alison Ivey, R.N., M.S., M.B.A., OCN, CCRP, who was the GI research coordinator at the time and is now senior director for administration, and other research coordinators. After two years, I moved to the McKnight Brain Institute with Dr. Erin Dunbar to work with glioblastoma.
Q: How did you get into your current career path?
A: This is where the saying goes, “don’t burn bridges.” When Dr. Dunbar left UF, I was looking for new opportunities. Alison contacted me about an opening for a GI nurse navigator. I interviewed with Dr. Thomas George [now deputy director of the Cancer Center] and initially declined the job, thinking there was no way I could learn all there was to know about GI cancer and provide that level of expertise.
I spoke with Dr. George again and Alison gave me a “gentle nudge.” And so my nurse navigator journey began. I spent 10 years doing a job in nursing that I loved. It was fast-paced, multifaceted and very engaging. It was the most rewarding role I had ever had. I was part of a team that truly wanted the best for our cancer patients. We were striving for excellence. Due to some life changes, this job became too demanding, and I needed to make a change. That began my new chapter as a clinical trials nurse navigator. Now I can combine both of my skill sets as a nurse navigator and a research coordinator.
Q: What is a typical day like in your job?
A: My days typically involve talking with patients about their disease process; working through barriers for patients to obtain an option for clinical trial participation; and screening patients and clinic schedules for potential enrollment opportunities.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of working for the UF Health Cancer Center?
A: Being integrated in the daily life of patients with cancer. I have the opportunity to be the patient’s voice, hope and encouragement in the most difficult time of their lives.
“I have the opportunity to be the patient’s voice, hope and encouragement in the most difficult time of their lives.”Jennifer West, B.S.N., R.N., ONN-CG
Q: How do you keep your skills current and continue to learn and grow?
A: Attending conferences and serving as a member of the Academy of Oncology Nurse and Patient Navigators (AONN+) and serving as co-chair of AONN+ Clinical Trials Committee. I also keep up with my clinical research certification through the Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP) with online education and seminars.
Q: Describe how you would spend your ideal day off from work.
A: My ideal day off work would be hanging out with my husband of 29 years at our pool, talking, planning, reminiscing and appreciating everything we have.