Blog » Charting The Course For Success

Charting The Course For Success

Created Apr 20 2018, 04:27 PM by Lippincott Solutions
  • Patient-centered care
  • Health care quality
  • patient outcomes

For patients, successfully navigating the complex healthcare landscape can be a daunting task – especially for those who are elderly, have language-communication challenges, or are generally unfamiliar with the myriad of questions that arise regarding treatments, payment, and care preferences. 

Nurse navigators are important in helping patients navigate their way through a care plan and overcoming any barriers to care. They focus first and foremost on the clinical aspects of care. They are often involved from the point of consultation through diagnostic testing, treatment, and follow-up or end-of-life care.

The nurse navigator must respond to questions in a timely manner, explain the rationale behind the planned treatment, and coordinate care across the healthcare continuum. Having someone to guide patients along the way can really help reduce anxiety and ensure that the treatment plan is followed.

Nurse Navigator Desired Qualities

While clinical competence is definitely a must, there are many more qualities essential to being a successful nurse navigator.

  • Strong communication skills. A nurse navigator cannot work alone. Effectiveness depends on teamwork with others. Their areas of practice are highly multidisciplinary, and require reliable, open, responsive communication in order to meet patient needs.
  • Cultural openness. The nurse navigator must be open to learning from patients, about values, beliefs, and how they see the world – all which may be very different from their own personal culture and beliefs. The navigator must listen and be a liaison between the patient/family/caregiver and the medical providers, in developing a plan that is medically sound and culturally acceptable.
  • Respect for others. A patient navigator must show patience and understanding while setting reasonable boundaries and expectations. 
  • Commitment to patient confidentiality. Most nurses are sensitized to patient confidentiality, from the HIPAA training they’ve received from employers. However, nurse navigation may require an additional layer of awareness.

Nurse Navigator Roles

The nurse navigator's roles and responsibilities vary depending on the healthcare setting in which he or she works. But all nurse navigators advocate for patients by helping translate complex medical information into language they can understand and apply, and making the overwhelming more manageable.

In providing patient-centered care, nurse navigators may do any or all of the following:

  • Educate patients about their disease, prescribed treatment, and side effects of treatment and how to manage them.
  • Provide clinical resources, such as where to seek a second opinion, testing and treatment options and locations, and how to access reliable sources of information.
  • Assess patients for psychosocial distress and referral to a medical social worker or counselor if more intensive support is needed.
  • Answer questions as appropriate and serve as liaison to the physician for additional questions and concerns.
  • Address tangible barriers to care such as finances, housing, transportation, childcare, prescription costs, and more. When necessary, refer patients to additional resources.
  • Ensure that health information provided is accessible. This may include securing documents printed in the patient’s own language or arranging for certified medical interpretation, either in-person or by phone/videoconference.
  • Work together as a member of an interdisciplinary team to assess, secure, and coordinate appropriate services through the continuum of care.
  • Empower patients, families, and caregivers to assume as much responsibility for their care as possible, within the constraints of age, illness, and other factors.
  • In consultation with other members of the healthcare team, promote awareness of clinical trials, as appropriate.
  • Support timely scheduling of appointments, diagnostic testing, and procedures.
  • Identify and educate patients about genetic counseling or fertility preservation, and facilitate appropriate referrals.

Measuring Success

Assess the impact of patient navigators by determining success metrics. Some common measures include improved coordination of high-quality care, enhanced access to services for all patients, removal of care barriers, more efficient delivery of care, improved outcomes, improved sharing of resources, enhanced community relationships, increased patient satisfaction, and increased referrals of new patients to the system. Baselines for all of these measures should be established in advance.

To evaluate care delivery, one might measure for example, the time from mammogram screening to diagnostic mammogram, biopsy, pathology results confirming diagnosis, and appointment for consultation with a breast surgeon. Read about an oncology nurse navigator on the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO)'s site.

Nurse navigators are what patient-centered care is all about. Do you have a nurse navigator in your department?