The diagnosis and treatment of cancer and living with the disease can be overwhelming for many patients and their family members. The maze of oncology services that families are asked to go through can be intimidating and daunting. A nurse navigator is a professional who comes alongside the family undergoing the cancer crisis. He/she may follow the patient from pre-diagnosis through the continuum of care. The navigator will ensure that the patient is given timely care for appointments, tests and procedures. She educates the patient on treatment options, medication and chemotherapy side effects, and clinical trial options. She may also provide psychosocial support to the patient and family. The navigator will provide resources and referrals to the family such as: financial assistance, support groups, transportation options and complimentary wellness opportunities. The nurse navigator role is integral for families as they navigate through the complexities of cancer care.
Most National and community cancer centers are using nurse navigators for individual types of cancer. For instance, there may be breast nurse navigator who deals specifically with patients diagnosed with breast cancer. It is important to understand that the role of navigator is diverse. You may find lay navigators who reach out to a particular community of patients or lay navigators who assist with more specific care such as those who coordinate initial consultations for treatment. If you are fortunate to be offered a lay or professional navigator I believe you will find them to be individuals who offer empathy and support during a difficult time. If you are not made aware of navigation services when you are newly diagnosed you can ask either your physician or cancer center if navigation services are provided.
Submitted by Guest Blogger:
Pam Matten, RN, BSN, OCN
Pam Matten is an oncology-certified nurse, specializing in thoracic oncology. She has been the Nurse Navigator for lung cancer patients at the Center for Cancer Prevention & Treatment, St. Joseph Hospital, orange. CA for over 9 years. Pam is also a public health nurse, tobacco treatment specialist, health instructor and yoga teacher.
For more information about oncology nurse navigators: