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What Is A Nurse Navigator?
A nurse navigator is a healthcare professional who "navigates" the patient through the treatment process. Nurse navigators provide assistance and support and can stay with the patient from the start of the treatment process through to end of life care.
History of Nurse Navigators
The first nurse navigator role was created by Dr. Harold Freeman in 1990. The Harlem-based doctor was reacting to a report from the American Cancer Society ("Report to the Nation on Cancer in the Poor") which stated that poor people were more likely to die from cancer. It claimed that poorer Americans had more barriers to timely care, including limited finances, distrust, emotional barriers, and poor communication.
By working with the patient from diagnosis to treatment and—if needed—palliative care, nurse navigators are able to reduce the medical disparity between rich and poor and ensure patients are adequately supported on their cancer journey.
What Do Nurse Navigators Do?
Most nurse navigators work in oncology and support patients with the emotional, mental, physical, and clinical aspects of a cancer diagnosis. They assess the patient's financial, clinical, and psychological needs and work with a multidisciplinary team to create personalized care plans.
A nurse navigator may conduct the following duties:
- Schedule appointments for tests, treatments, and procedures
- Monitor the patient's response to treatments
- Report on the patient's health
- Answer any questions that the patient has
- Liaise with a healthcare team
- Educate patients about treatments and side effects
- Maintain patient confidentiality
- Access administrative and community resources to support the patient with childcare, transportation, housing, and financial issues
How Do You Become a Nurse Navigator?
Nurse navigators are required to complete a nursing degree and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX -RN). From there, they must become specialized in their chosen area, such as oncology nursing.
A bachelor's degree is preferred by most healthcare organizations, but you can become a registered nurse with an associate's degree.
What Makes a Good Nurse Navigator?
A Nurse Navigator acts as an intermediary between the patient and their medical team, so they must be good communicators. They know how to work closely with patients and to ensure they get the best possible care.
Like all nurses, nurse navigators have critical thinking skills and can assist patients with a host of ailments. They also work closely with families and provide patient education where needed, so knowledge, experience, and supportive care skills are all essential.
Nurse navigators are advocates, teachers, therapists, and friends, as well as nurses. A nurse navigator is also very adept at multi-tasking, as they typically juggle many roles and duties at once to provide complete patient care.
Where Do Nurse Navigators/Patient Navigators Work?
Nurse navigators work in a variety of healthcare settings, including hospital emergency rooms, cancer care facilities, critical care sectors, and patient homes.
Summary: The Importance of Nurse Navigators
Oncology nurse navigators play a very important role in treating and supporting patients. It's a relatively new role, but an important one, nonetheless. What's more, as cancer rates climb (mainly because we're all living longer) these registered nurses will become even more sought-after in healthcare organizations nationwide.
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