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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.
Patient navigators have a responsibility to stay up-to-date on leading edge evidence-based information and resources. This includes scholarly journal articles, information in popular media outlets, books, and emerging content important to their area of practice.
It’s tough when you work with a patient and their loved ones and things take a turn for the worse. This can be especially challenging for you as they try to process news such as death.
Patient self-determination is a critical component of quality cancer care. This means that patients should be involved in a shared decision making process and that their priorities and preferences should be respected by the healthcare team.
Patient navigators should continuously evaluate their professional role and any perceived or actual conflicts of interest with their personal life.
Patient navigators should have a list of resources at their fingertips in order to assist patients with a variety of different challenges. They should also know which resources are credible and can be most helpful to particular patients.
Patients often lean on their navigators to ask questions, seek information, and get the “bottom line” in terms of their treatment and care. Trust is an integral part of this relationship and navigators simply cannot competently do their job without a deep level of trust with the patient.
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