Some experiences in life define who you are and set the path for what you will become. Sandra Areias knows this firsthand. Sandra was always the caretaker in her family and was always interested in nursing, but her fate was sealed when she witnessed a loved one’s battle with cancer.
“That was a paradigm moment for me,” Sandra recalls. “It made me a better nurse.”
Not only did Sandra grow up in the role of caregiver, she says she also grew up at Lahey. She joined Lahey Hospital & Medical Center as a nursing assistant in the inpatient oncology unit before attending nursing school, and has been here ever since — all the while obtaining her associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing.
Today, Sandra is the Nurse Navigation Manager for Lahey Health’s Oncology Care Model. Her charge is care coordination: helping patients and their families understand and access the services and options they have available to them or may they need, such as assistance with scheduling and symptom management during cancer treatment, coordinating supportive services including psychosocial care, as well as helping overcome any barriers that patients may encounter. Sandra and her team of oncology nurse navigators are often the first staff members that patients interact with when they are referred to Oncology at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center. She and her team review all new-patient referrals and start the coordination process of obtaining records, reports and other essential components of the patient’s medical information even before their first appointment with the oncology team is scheduled; this is to ensure that the time spent during those appointments is as meaningful and impactful as possible.
One of the main reasons why Sandra values the Lahey Health Cancer Institute so highly: the collaboration and thought-sharing between colleagues across multiple disciplines and campuses leads to more standardized and seamless care for patients, which in turn helps makes their journey a little easier. This is something Sandra can truly appreciate as she carries with her the genuine understanding of what the journey can be like — not just for patients but for their loved ones as well.
“In everything I do, I always think back to the patient and their family,” Sandra says. “And how is this going to impact them and is this going to make a difference to them? The patient is always at the center of all that we do, but we’re right next to them connecting all the dots.”