Helping cancer patients navigate drug costs: Kayla’s incredible commitment to QEII patient care

Kayla Ross poses for a photo wearing a black jacket and floral shirt

Pictured: Kayla Ross works as a drug access navigator in oncology at the QEII Health Sciences Centre. Despite her own difficulties with her kidney cancer diagnosis in 2017, Kayla is now cancer-free and goes above and beyond to help patients access medications needed for their treatment. Contributed.

For cancer patients facing a life-changing diagnosis, access to costly medications can be just one more overwhelming obstacle. Healthcare professionals known as drug access navigators help ensure that patients with cancer and other illnesses have the costs of medications essential to treatment covered.

Dee Moore, Kayla Ross, and Caroline DeVan are the three drug access navigators that work in medical oncology at the QEII Health Sciences Centre. “Many cancer medications – even some IV drugs given in hospital – aren’t covered by our government, and cost thousands of dollars. We coordinate with private and public insurance, nurses, doctors, patients, pharmacies, and programs that help with out of pocket costs for patients and access to newer drugs to ensure that these expenses are covered and accessible for patients,” says Dee. “It’s a busy job – currently, we’re following over 120 patients.”

Dee nominated her coworker, Kayla, as a #QE2HealthHero for her outstanding dedication to her role and kind, empathetic way of working with patients.  

“Kayla has been so instrumental in setting up all of the training and procedures we go through,” says Dee. Originally, the position was open to social workers, but transitioned to employees with pharmacy technician backgrounds as they bring knowledge of medications to the role. “Kayla’s been such an advocate for us moving into this role, and helped shape a challenging position into what it is today.”

Dee also says that Kayla always communicates with patients in a professional and kind manner. “She is really caring and compassionate,” Dee says. “She functions with such efficiency and a lot of concern for each patient to make sure they have what they need as quickly as possible.”

Kayla explains that part of the reason she has such a deep level of empathy for the patients navigating through a cancer diagnosis is because of the difficulties she faced due to her own personal health issues.

“In 2017, I got pregnant and I was having some problems with my back and legs, so I went in for an ultrasound for my daughter to make sure everything was okay,” Kayla recalls. Shockingly, results revealed that Kayla had renal cell carcinoma, a type of cancer, in her right kidney.

At 27 weeks into her pregnancy, Kayla underwent cancer surgery at the QEII. Surgeons were able to successfully to remove the affected kidney while keeping both Kayla and her baby safe. Thankfully, Kayla didn’t have to go through any additional cancer treatment, and a few months later, gave birth to her daughter, Piper.

Today, Kayla is cancer-free, and finds joy every day in being a mom and in her profession. She explains that her cancer care experience truly deepened the compassion she feels for the patients she works with. “I received really great care at the hospital,” says Kayla. “But I understand how difficult it would be trying to organize and manage drug coverage on top of everything that comes along with a diagnosis.”

Dee says that throughout the years, Kayla has made such an incredible difference for so many patients during such an extraordinarily stressful time in their lives:

“Because of her efforts, patients get the very best of help with their cancer journey.”

Thank you, Kayla, for supporting QEII cancer patients as they navigate through their diagnoses and treatment. Your incredible commitment – and compassion – makes you a true #QE2HealthHero! To nominate a fellow #QE2HealthHero click here. If you’d like to make a donation in honour of someone special this holiday season – whether it’s a colleague, your own care provider or team, or a loved one – click here.

In addition to Kayla’s dedication to her daughter, Piper, and work as a drug access navigator, Kayla also volunteers for a non-profit that helps cancer patients in Atlantic Canada easily access information about drug access navigators online. The Atlantic Canada Oncology Drug Access Navigators Association (ACODANA), a non-profit organization provides information like how to be referred to a drug access navigator, what to expect at a first appointment, and how drug coverage is coordinated.

To visit the ACODANA website, click here.