3 Days of Education, Networking, and Fellowship in the Sun!

Conference Highlights published on June 8, 2017 in 2017 West Coast Regional Meeting

Navigators gathered in Phoenix at the 2017 West Coast Regional Meeting for fascinating presentations, exhibitor events, and camaraderie among peers.


Nurse and patient navigators came together for 3 days of educational sessions, certification, and networking with fellow navigators at the 2017 Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators (AONN+) West Coast Regional Meeting in Phoenix, AZ from April 27-29.

In the early morning on the first day of the conference, navigators sat for the nurse navigator (Oncology Nurse Navigator–Certified Generalist (ONN-CG), and patient navigator (Oncology Patient Navigator–Certified Generalist (OPN-CG) certification exams. These navigators had taken time out of their busy schedules to study for certification using AONN+ learning modules to prepare for the test. They saw the value of taking the important step to enhance their careers and increase their patient care knowledge. “I think certification is great,” stated attendee Lisa Reynolds, (pictured lower left), patient navigator, American Cancer Society, University of Arizona Cancer Center. “I’m sure at some point people will look to move toward certification to get a job. I certainly think it would help people.”

[See what this navigator says about why she took the certification exam.]

After the certification exam concluded, navigators were invited to attend a meeting on the various AONN+ committees in which they can participate. Navigators Danelle Johnston, RN, MSN, BSN, ONN-CG, OCN, CBCN; Tricia Strusowski, MS, RN; and Cheryl Bellomo, MSN, RN, OCN, led the discussions. Tricia Strusowski asked those in the room about challenges related to the newer AONN+ initiative, Standardized Navigation Metrics. AONN+ Leadership Council member Linda Burhansstipanov, MSPH, DrPH, asked about a metrics competency statement that might help clarify the importance of why navigators should get involved in this AONN+ initiative. Further discussions included how to implement standardized navigation metrics and ways to integrate metrics data. After some back and forth between the attendees and the speakers, feedback led to some prospective ideas. The Navigation Metrics Team is working on specific strategies to make navigators aware of the navigation metrics and ways to use them.

Later that afternoon, AONN+ leaders Lillie Shockney, RN, BS, MAS, ONN-CG, and Sharon Gentry, RN, MSN, CBCN, CBEC, ONN-CG, officially kicked off the meeting with opening remarks and matters pertaining to AONN+. They spoke about the Town Hall meeting they were going to be hosting, the newly redesigned AONN+ website, and that attendees could qualify to receive up to 10.2 continuing education credits.

They surveyed the audience, asking a wide range of questions, including how far they traveled, the size of their practice settings, reimbursement issues, and more. Surveying the audience members was a theme throughout the meeting, which offered some interesting insights from attendees.

Attendees also had an opportunity to sit in on sessions on patient navigation and financial toxicity. “The most important [patient concern] I see is the financial toxicity that patients end up having,” stated attendee Cathy Mikkelson, patient navigator, American Cancer Society, Mayo Clinic Arizona.

In the early evening, there was a networking reception in the Exhibit Hall. The atmosphere was relaxed as navigators were greeted by exhibitors who were there to discuss oncology therapies and products and to answer questions. “I like to hear about new things that are coming out,” said Lisa Reynolds. “Sometimes you get to a point when you have been doing this job for a while that you don’t always hear about the new things.”

On Friday morning, both N.E.X.T. Day and educational sessions covered a variety of topics, including immunotherapy, the AONN+ Navigation Metrics, a sing-along on smoking cessation, and various oncology therapies. During these sessions, navigators listened to speakers present on these topics and were afforded an opportunity to ask questions after presentations and mingle with presenters and their peers.

During a break in sessions, Lillie Shockney, Sharon Gentry, Tricia Strusowski, Linda Burhansstipanov, and Danelle Johnston led a Town Hall for attendees. The meeting provided an opportunity to talk with the AONN+ leadership on all things navigation. Navigators asked far-reaching questions covering everything from standardized navigation metrics to how AONN+ differentiates itself from other nursing organizations to Commission on Cancer (CoC) standards and more. The leaders gave thoughtful responses to the audience as they updated everyone on these important topics.

That evening, navigators were able to enjoy another networking Exhibit Hall reception. Along with the sounds of the raffle auction going off and the smells of the buffet, navigators were treated to a scavenger hunt, where they were able to find prizes throughout the Exhibit Hall and surrounding area.

Attendee Lisa Reynolds found multiple opportunities to talk with other navigators, and says she spoke to people in the Exhibit Hall, after presentations, and even exchanged e-mail addresses, so she has ways to keep in touch with others.

“Networking is huge,” said Reynolds. “Any time you can learn about what other people are doing and other resources that you might not know of seem to be appreciated across the board. I really like the willingness of all navigators to share what they are doing.”  

On Saturday morning, attendees were greeted by Lillie Shockney and Sharon Gentry, who recapped some of the important topics that were covered the day before as well as some important announcements pertaining to the meeting and the organization.

Afterward, Barbara Dearmon, BS, CTR, President of the National Cancer Registrars Association and Manager of Oncology Support Services, St. Vincent’s Healthcare, Jacksonville, Florida, presented a review on the latest CoC requirements for program management, clinical services, continuum-of-care services, patient outcomes, and data quality.

Lillie Shockney gave a presentation about how healthcare operates in silos, stating that it is counterproductive to communicating effectively with the multiple providers working in care teams. She offered an example of this in her cancer center and explained how she was able to troubleshoot an issue with biopsy procedures and to get results more efficiently.

When the meeting ended on Saturday afternoon, there was much to be gained for navigators in terms of learning, connecting, and growing from a professional and personal standpoint. Whether the navigators were new to AONN+ or had attended meetings and conferences in the past, everyone had some tidbits of significant information, prospective strategies, or new friends they met at the meeting. 

“It’s important for me to connect with other navigators,” explained attendee Cathy Mikkelson. “We need to come and be supported by people like ourselves. It gives us inspiration.”

The West Coast Regional Meeting is the first of 2 big meetings this year. The 2017 Annual Conference, which will cover an even wider variety of topics, will be held in Orlando in mid-November.  To learn more about the West Coast Regional Meeting educational sessions, read the conference highlights here. And if you are interested in learning more about the Annual Conference, go here.



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