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Patient navigators are often the “go-to resource” person for patients and their loved ones. This relationship is based on trust and accessibility. Patients rely on navigators to provide timely, relevant, and accurate information.
Navigation programs can help with sustainability of the field by capturing core metrics on barriers identified, interventions to reduce barriers, numbers and types of patients served.
Patient navigators have a basic and ever-expanding knowledge of medical and cancer terminology. If a navigator does not have the knowledge necessary to answer patient questions, they may refer the patient to other members of the health care team.
All of the team members on the cancer care team are critical to help patients meet their treatment and survivorship goals. The patient navigator can help the patient understand all of the roles on the health care team and what the patient and their loved ones can expect from each person.
The work of patient navigators can be complex, chaotic, and at times, confusing. Cancer care is constantly evolving, which means that patient needs and challenges cannot always be solved easily. Patient navigators must be comfortable with ambiguity and should work to advocate for and utilize resources and services that best fit patient needs.
Patient navigators should work with colleagues to ensure a professional environment that fosters a community of respect, dignity, diversity, ethical integrity, and trust.
One of the most challenging times for cancer survivors is the transitions at different points in the care continuum: screening, diagnosis, treatment, survivorship, and end of life care. These are often the points at which patients “fall through the cracks” because they may not know what questions to ask, whom to have a conversation with, how to access the resources or services they need, or what to do next.
Patient navigators will work with a variety of patients with diverse backgrounds including people of different genders, ages, cultures, races, religions, abilities, and sexual orientations.
A cancer diagnosis can create extreme stress for some patients. As such, patient navigators should exhibit insight and understanding about emotions and human response to emotions to create and maintain positive interpersonal interactions.
Patient navigators should continually be seeking new information that can benefit their patients. This includes the identification, understanding, analysis, and use of resources and services for cancer patients with a myriad of needs.
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