Cancer patients have needs beyond chemotherapy and radiation.

After receiving a diagnosis and learning about treatment options, cancer patients often find themselves swimming hard against a current of decisions and questions.

That is why Cancer Patient Navigators have become such an important part of the cancer care team. They provide professional and personal guidance to patients as they move through the health care system, according to the American Medical Association.

Navigators are such valued resources to patients and families today, many health care systems – including Johnson Memorial Health – are adding them to their staffs.

Here are answers to common questions about Cancer Patient Navigators, provided by the American Cancer Society:

What do Patient Navigators do?

They help patients and families with insurance problems, finding doctors, explaining treatment and care options, going with patients to visits, communicating with their health care team, assisting caregivers and managing medical paperwork.

What training and credentials are required to be a Patient Navigator?

Some have certificates and other medical credentials. Some are nurses or have received training from the American Cancer Society. Johnson Memorial Health’s Navigator, Becky Brummett, is an Oncology Certified Registered Nurse.

Others have experience in legal, financial or administration fields. Right now, there are no state or national requirements to be a Navigator. However, the National Association of Healthcare Advocacy Consultants (NAHCAC) is in the process of developing a nationally recognized set of credentials.

How long have Patient Navigators been around?

Originally, healthcare systems offered Navigators to deal with patients who had little income, low literacy and lack of health insurance. As technology and medicine advanced in fields such as cancer treatment, providers recognized the complicated maze that patients faced. They realized a Navigator could help anyone facing complex treatments and recovery. The American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer began requiring cancer centers to provide patient navigation services in 2015.

Do Patient Navigators make a difference in care?

The American Cancer Society decided to study that question in 2013. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, patients with a nurse navigator rated their care higher and reported fewer problems than patients without one.

According to the researchers, “the patients who had navigators felt more involved in their care, more informed as to how cancer affects their life, and better prepared for the future. They were more likely to say that the health care team had gone out of their way to make them feel better emotionally. And they found fewer problems with psychological and social care, coordination of care, and health information.”

In Summary

Getting a cancer diagnosis is a shock. And knowing what to do and where to go next can be overwhelming. That’s where the Cancer Care Navigator comes in—a person you can lean on who is trained to help you navigate the intricacies of your cancer care and treatment. Cancer Care Navigators will help you schedule appointments, sort out medications, answer your questions and connect you with resources that will support you through recovery. Cancer Care Navigators will guide you through the cancer journey and support you through recovery.