The role of a navigator is bidimensional and is centered on patient care, as well as on the healthcare system. While considering the patient needs along with the workings of the healthcare system, navigators can promote and ensure continuity of care for patients.
Navigators may work in the community outreach or the screening aspect of the care continuum. They may also interact with patients at the time of their diagnosis, navigating you throughout the treatment phase and the transition into survivorship, or if need be, to end-of-life care.
Navigators may function in one aspect of the care continuum, or their role may encompass the entire continuum of care. Either way, navigators share the common goals of focusing on patients by guiding, educating, advocating for, supporting and encouraging, eliminating barriers, and providing resources to patients.
Community outreach navigators help facilitate patient access to care by providing education on cancer, screening guidelines, wellness and prevention information, and community resources through health fairs and collaborating with community partners.
Stages of Care
Navigators play an essential role at the time of the diagnosis and the treatment stages of care. During each stage, navigators provide patient-centered care in assessing patients’ coping and psychosocial skills, as well as educating and validating patients’ understanding of the diagnosis and the proposed treatments.
Navigators function as interdisciplinary team members during the diagnosis and treatment aspects of the continuum of care. They assess patients and make appropriate referrals to other providers on the team, such as for clinical trials, genetics, palliative care for symptom management, and dietitian or nutritional support services.
The Continuum of Care
The role of the navigator continues through the transitions from treatment to survivorship and/or end-of-life care. Navigators are pivotal in assessing and addressing the rehabilitation needs and the long-term survivorship care needs of patients with cancer. Navigators can help patients transition to hospice care, and ensure that patients and their families have resources for end-of-life needs.
Navigators are in a position to promote patient-centered and healthcare system–oriented care to patients with cancer and their families. Navigators help empower you and your family to move forward with the cancer journey with the support and resources you need to make informed decisions along the continuum of cancer care.
Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators
Harold P. Freeman Patient Navigation Institute
Cancer Patient Navigation
American Cancer Society