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Griselda Olivas, Breast Nurse Navigator Dedicated to Patients

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As a pillar of the Dignity – St. Joseph’s Medical Center Cancer Institute, Breast Nurse Navigator Griselda Olivas, RN, CN-BN, is often the first face someone sees when they have been recently diagnosed with breast cancer. While the news of a diagnosis can be emotional and overwhelming, Griselda’s calming presence and invaluable knowledge of navigating plans for treatment help ease the nerves of patients and their family members alike.

Griselda’s dedication to her community during her 42-year nursing career is commendable. Initially hired by the St. Joseph’s Community Health Department, she turned her passion for women’s health into an outreach program, primarily for the low-income Hispanic community, through a nurse outreach program. Griselda played an instrumental role in St. Joseph’s initiative to address the importance of regular women’s health screenings, including mammographies. Griselda’s grassroots approach of visiting local church festivals and door-to-door knocking saw significant improvement when St. Joseph’s implemented the Mobile Mammography Unit. “I did this for 17 years, and, needless to say, what started as a handful of women receiving annual exams at our Women’s Clinic, held every Saturday, grew from 200 to well over 10,000, with the Mobile Mammography Unit as our clinic site,” shared Griselda.

Now, as a breast nurse navigator, Griselda works with over 1,200 patients, helping them throughout their treatment journeys and during recovery. From the initial diagnosis, Griselda is by their side, from greeting the patients coming in for their initial breast consultants to visiting with those who are currently undergoing treatment. Once a patient reaches “survivorship mode,” Griselda ensures that patients, usually between 16 and 20 daily, are following through with any appointments, checks on mammograms and provider visits with compliance per American Society of Clinical Oncology and National Accreditation Program for Breast Cancer guidelines.

For patients currently undergoing treatment, Griselda advises “taking it one step at a time and try not to be overwhelmed with all of the information. Allow yourselves time to express your emotions. Your feelings are valid, and it’s normal to have sporadic moments of emotions.” At St. Joseph’s Cancer Institute, patients are not only treated physically but are also provided resources to help their emotional well-being throughout the process. In addition to certified nurse navigators, St. Joseph’s regularly holds support groups for both patients and their families and is a conveyer to many local resources.

A strong support system is an important part of the process to recovery. “For individuals who have a loved one undergoing treatment, the most important thing is support, support, support,” said Griselda. “Most importantly, be a good listener and allow your loved one to share their innermost feelings without giving advice or judgment. The best thing to say is ‘How can I help?’”
As for the most rewarding part of her job, Griselda shared that “seeing my patients throughout their journeys and being able to celebrate with hugs and sometimes tears of joy at their completion of treatment” is at the top of the list. Griselda is inspired by “knowing that I have the support of our extraordinary Cancer Institute team who work in unison to provide each and every patient with the highest quality care, delivered with compassion.”

While not working with her patients in the Cancer Institute, Griselda, known as Nani to her grandchildren, enjoys spending time with her husband, Ruben, and their daughter, son-in-law and three grandsons. On weekends, Griselda and Ruben can be found attending their grandsons’ sporting events, and they look forward to their annual vacations to Disneyland, in addition to Tahoe for some pre-Christmas snow. Griselda also started a program with Presentation Parish School in Stockton, which all three of her grandsons have attended, in which classes create seasonal artwork to be displayed at St. Joseph’s Cancer Institute.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, call the cancer patient navigator at 209-969-4526. Nurse navigators, like Griselda, can help answer your questions, develop a personalized plan of action and connect you to additional resources, information and support.

For more information on St. Joseph’s Cancer Institute, please visit