From Your NavigatorNavigators

How Your Oncology Nurse Navigator Can Help You

When first diagnosed with cancer, the diagnosis, treatment options, and choices can be overwhelming. Your oncology navigator can help you sort through some of the confusion.
April 2015 Vol 1 No 2
Marian E. Gilmore, RN, OCN
Nurse Navigator
Multi-Specialty Clinic Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center
in clinical affiliation with South Shore Hospital
South Weymouth, MA

The following suggestions are some of the questions you could ask when speaking with your care team or your oncologist.

Q: Do you have an oncology nurse navigator on staff?

The oncology navigator, who is often a nurse, is an experienced, oncology-certified professional with a high amount of clinical expertise. The navigator can be your point of contact after you schedule your first appointment. The navigator can meet with you at the first appointment, and you can begin asking questions about your diagnosis or treatment that may concern you.

Q: Is the oncology nurse navigator a member of the healthcare team?

Your nurse navigator is an active member of your healthcare team. The navigator participates in weekly meetings, where your care will be discussed with all members of your care team. Your navigator acts as your advocate, your educator, and the “go to” person, and will remain your constant contact person throughout your care. Your nurse navigator also assists in communicating with different specialists if your care requires help from other medical experts.

Q: What support services are available for you?

Your navigator will help you overcome barriers or obstacles related to transportation, financial cost of treatment, nutrition, and emotional and spiritual issues that can come up before, during, or after your cancer treatment is completed. Your navigator is aware of the resources available to you and can provide information or refer you to the specific services you need to overcome any obstacles that may interfere with your treatment.

Q: When can I meet with my oncology nurse navigator?

At your first meeting, you may receive a lot of information related to your diagnosis and treatment options. Your nurse navigator will be there with you, to help you put it all together. Part of your treatment plan may involve several medical specialists, such as radiation oncology, medical oncology, or surgical oncology. Your navigator can help you make sure you know what the various steps of your treatment will be, who you will meet, and where you will need to go.

Q: Do I have direct access to my oncology navigator?

You will be provided with the direct phone number of your navigator. You can speak with your navigator over the phone or schedule appointments to see your navigator in the clinic. Your navigator acts as the primary point of contact for you after your initial diagnosis, until you have sufficient knowledge and resources to direct your care.

Q: What will my oncology nurse navigator do for me?

Your oncology navigator assists with coordination of testing to determine diagnosis. Your navigator intervenes at the time of diagnosis to evaluate any educational or support services you may need, and serves as your navigator after your diagnosis. The navigator will review your treatment plan; explain the rationale behind the plan; review professional cancer guidelines related to your cancer, your medical reports, and pathology results; and be your cancer educator across the entire continuum of your care. Your oncology nurse navigator will provide information to you on ways of dealing with new lifestyles related to cancer treatment, such as ostomy care/ ostomy support, pulmonary rehab, and exercise programs. If you are a candidate for surgery, the navigator will call you before surgery (preoperatively) to make sure you are comfortable with the plan. Your navigator will also call you after surgery (postoperatively) to make sure you have the appropriate services in your home and have scheduled follow-up visits with your surgeon, and answer any questions you may have.

Patient Resources

The following websites offer additional information on navigators:

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