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Daily Struggles of Oncology Navigators

November 10, 2020 | AONN+ Blog | Navigation

As oncology navigators, we often come across a variety of issues when supporting patients with cancer. The Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators (AONN+) understands these daily struggles and the need for resources, tips, and solutions as oncology navigators encounter these issues.

Advocating for patients. Patients with cancer come in all different shapes and sizes and from all different backgrounds. Understanding a patient’s preparedness for treatment and any barriers or stressors they may face, such as transportation or childcare, can be a difficult conversation. An intake assessment tool can be helpful in framing questions to understand your patient’s needs.

From the perspective of a patient navigator:

“Addressing barriers to cancer care is a core activity of oncology navigators. AONN+ supports navigators by equipping them with valuable tools and resources, such as the Patient Guide to Cancer Support Services available through CONQUER: the patient voice and also the Oncology Practice Management Guide to Patient Support Services. Both are rich resources providing information about financial assistance programs and programs offered by drug companies and nonprofits to help patients with cancer with the cost of their care. Through partnerships with patient advocacy organizations and nonprofits, AONN+ is able to share resources with its members through educational webinars. In addition, AONN+ created a Facebook group for its members to not only allow for networking with navigators across the country, but to share and ask for resources that address barriers such as transportation, lodging, and financial. The group has provided our members a valuable mechanism to better support the patients they serve.”
—Monica Dean, HON-OPN-CG

Understanding health disparities. Now more than ever, cracks in our healthcare system are becoming more apparent, and health disparities in class, race, or the LGBTQI community are a challenge that oncology navigators face every day. It’s also a challenge we cannot face alone, reaching out to oncology navigators who deal with different patient demographics could create an understanding of the current standing of patient care and what issues may arise in your own practice.

Measuring your success. Value-based care is a highly coordinated, patient-centered solution to address rising costs, duplication of services, barriers to care, and to help patients receive the care they need. Over the decades, navigation standards and core competencies have been established through national organizations. These guidelines and standards have provided an excellent road map for oncology navigation programs, but the steps to measuring access can be difficult. AONN+ has identified 35 evidence-based navigation metrics that are relevant to cancer care and demonstrate the value and sustainability of oncology navigation. This toolkit was developed to help navigators, oncology program administrators, healthcare executives, and other clinicians who are linked to navigation understand and support the integration of these standardized metrics into their normal business process.

From the perspective of an administrator:

“In our present healthcare landscape, navigation programs must demonstrate their success through metrics. AONN+ created the 35 evidence-based navigation metrics in the categories of patient experience, clinical outcomes, and return on investment. The AONN+ navigation metrics align perfectly with national oncology standards and value-based cancer care initiatives. The sustainability of navigation programs will rely on strong outcomes that support our cancer programs. To support our members, AONN+ has completed an IRB study on navigation metrics with strong outcomes and provided the newly released Navigation Metrics Implementation Toolkit.”
—Tricia Strusowski, RN, MS

Addressing financial toxicity. With a growing uninsured and/or underinsured patient population and rising costs of care, we need to equip patients with the ability to navigate the financial aspects of cancer care. Oncology navigators not only have to prepare their patients for the financial burden of treatments and therapies, but also prepare the families for financial realities if a loved one passes from cancer.

From the perspective of a financial navigator:

“Financial toxicity impacts clinical decision-making for patients. Patients have recently become more comfortable expressing their financial concerns; therefore, it’s important that physicians and clinicians understand how financial navigators can help. AONN+ is always adding new resources and insights to their initiatives to assist financial navigators in assisting their patients and physicians in understanding the financial barriers of care.”
—Clara Lambert, BBA, OPN-CG

Burnout. As more and more people are being diagnosed with cancer, and fewer and fewer medical students/navigators are choosing to go into the field of oncology, burnout is a risk for all of us. COVID-19 has further complicated the matter, as the acuity of patient care that navigators are managing on a daily basis increases with patients with cancer and their families. COVID-19 has all healthcare workers putting themselves at a higher risk every day, creating a higher rate of burnout.

What is an oncology navigator? Although navigation services are becoming more common at cancer programs nationwide, physicians and administrators still frequently ask, “What are the responsibilities of the navigator?” Communicating your role can be difficult, and the AONN+ Foundation for Learning certifications can help distinguish the knowledge, skills, and role of the oncology navigator through the Oncology Nurse Navigator–Certified Generalist (ONN-CG) and the Oncology Patient Navigator–Certified Generalist (OPN-CG) credentials: the only accredited certifications dedicated specifically to the oncology navigation profession.

As oncology navigators, we are faced with a variety of issues when supporting patients with cancer. Navigating a patient through one of the hardest moments in their life can be rewarding, but the daily challenges are hard to ignore. These daily struggles are unique to oncology navigators who often need an all-encompassing approach to a patient to help them through their journey.

The Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators (AONN+) understands these daily struggles and the constant need for new and relevant resources, tips, and solutions. When an oncology navigator is armed with the right tools, it can help relieve some of the burdens that are faced daily. From continuing education to keeping your professional interests piqued to connecting with others in the field who understand your struggles, being an AONN+ member means you are never alone.

Become an AONN+ member today to receive access to a knowledge-sharing oncology navigator network, innovative conferences and webinars, and evolving resources and tools to help you in your navigator journey.

Become a Member 48-Hour Trial

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