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Meet the Staff: Jennifer Kelley, Patient Navigator

Originally published April 1, 2020

Last updated December 14, 2022

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Portrait of Jennifer Kelley, a patient navigator at Keck Medicine of USC

The care Jennifer Kelley provides to patients at the USC Acoustic Neuroma Center is deeply personal. The reason? She was once in their shoes.

Jennifer Kelley is the patient navigator for otology and program administrator for the USC Acoustic Neuroma Center. She recently talked about why she loves her job.

What does it mean to be a patient navigator?

As a patient navigator, my job is to be there for patients at every step once they enter our office. I help them schedule appointments, answer follow-up questions, or relay messages to the doctors.

For patients who need extra care, I also am present at their appointments and will visit them in the hospital while they’re receiving treatment or recovering.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The most amazing part of my job is to watch a patient’s face when I mention that I was a patient, too!

I explain to patients that I am deaf in one ear due to my diagnosis. You see their whole demeanor change as they realize there’s somebody else in the room who understands what they’re going through.

I had no intention of ever working in the medical field. But this opportunity to share my knowledge and experience from having been a patient myself is incredible. It makes a real impact on their care.

Jennifer Kelly, a patient navigator at Keck Medicine of USC
“My job is to be there for patients at every step,” Jennifer Kelley says. (Photos by Ricardo Carrasco III)

What do you want the public to know about hearing loss?

Patients who have hearing loss or single-sided deafness can be perceived as not very intelligent because they have to ask people to repeat themselves.

But it’s not an issue of comprehension. They simply can’t hear the other person.

Patients need to cut themselves some slack — and as a loved one, it is important to have patience if you’re asked to repeat yourself.

It’s likely this person already is doing everything they can to try to understand what you’re saying.

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USC Health Magazine 2021 #1

Read the current issue

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