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