After being diagnosed with cancer, it’s important to create a network of support to help you through your treatment. Many people look for this support in their friends and family, but you can also turn to an oncology nurse navigator or patient navigator. Oncology nurse navigators guide patients through every phase of the cancer journey, helping them overcome any healthcare system hurdles.
Building a multidisciplinary care team requires specialists in every facet of care. Your care team will likely include more than only your oncologist. Depending on your needs, you may have a nurse navigator, a social worker, a registered dietitian, and other specialists added to your team to address certain aspects of care specific to your diagnosis and needs. Your oncology nurse navigator will work closely with the other team members and will be an important part of your multidisciplinary care team and your cancer support team.
What Does an Oncology Nurse Navigator Do?
Oncology nurse navigators guide you through the complexities of the healthcare system and the financial aspects of cancer care, taking on the role of the primary point of contact for other members of your care team. From diagnosis to treatment to survivorship, your nurse navigator will help you overcome barriers to care, while ensuring you have access to quality medical and psychological care.
Although your friends and family members can act as great sources of support, oncology nurse navigators are trained to provide personalized assistance to each patient and are experts in navigating the healthcare system and cancer care.
What Kind of Oncology Navigators Are There?
- Nurse navigators are clinically trained and can help identify your appropriate treatment route. The nurse navigator has the suitable medical education needed to ensure that you get the best care, and can be a critical member of your cancer care team.
- Patient navigators are not clinically trained, but they have a strong background knowledge of cancer care. They work within the healthcare system to decrease barriers to care, provide educational resources, and offer consistent support to you as the patient, as well as to your family.
- Financial navigators help patients understand their medical insurance, as well as what other financial resources are available to help pay for care if a patient has any financial needs.
What Will My Navigator Do for Me?
Your navigator will get to know your goals of treatment, as well as your barriers to care. By meeting you at the beginning of your journey, your navigator can ensure that the right steps are being taken to meet your goals and will help to adjust your treatment accordingly along the way. Your navigator can also guide you through survivorship or help coordinate end-of-life wishes.
The type of navigator that joins your care team will depend on the barriers of care you are facing. Everyone’s barriers can be different. Language, education, financial toxicity, and complicated treatment decisions, such as considering a clinical trial, can be some of the issues that patients face. Your navigator is assigned to you to support you through every step of your cancer journey, and to help you identify and solve any barriers you may be facing.
How Can I Have a Nurse Navigator Added to My Care Team?
If you don’t have a nurse navigator assigned to your cancer care team, speak with your oncologist about it and ask to create a plan to add an oncology nurse navigator to your team.
A support system is one of the most important tools people with cancer can equip themselves with. You don’t have to face your diagnosis alone. From resources to emotional support to guiding you through the healthcare system, oncology nurse navigators are there to provide you with a shoulder to lean on throughout your cancer care.
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