Diseases are complex. Understanding and dealing with them takes a team. Enter the nurse navigator.
The best way to think of a nurse navigator is as a middle man between the patient and clinical care staff.
According to the NCBI, Dr. Harold Freeman created the initial nurse navigator position for Harlem Hospital in the 1990s.
The program helped eliminate barriers to cancer diagnosis and care to the poor within the community.
A nurse navigator assists the patient from initial diagnosis to end-of-life treatment if necessary.
What Roles Do Nurse Navigators Perform?
Nurse navigators help their patients throughout the treatment process. Below are some of the roles nurse navigators perform.
Education: One primary benefits of a nurse navigator is providing expert information to patients.
Often, patients learn about a diagnosis, and they rush to Google or their close friend, which only fills them with worry.
A nurse navigator can provide expert education about the disease along with treatments.
Community resources: This benefit connects patients to community resources. For example, many new cancer patients feel afraid and alone when they first receive the diagnosis. A nurse navigator can help them with support groups to attend to alleviate those feelings.
Provides clinical resources: The navigator helps equip their patient with information about other clinical options that may not be available locally. They also can show a patient where to find a second opinion.
Monitors symptoms: As a middle man between the patient and care team, the navigator records a patient’s symptoms. For example, say the navigator notices a patient’s swelling. They can inform the oncology nurse or RN to run some tests to determine what’s wrong.
Psychological assistance: When a patient feels distressed, they may reach out to the nurse for help. The nurse navigator can provide comfort and, if necessary, refer them to a social worker or counselor for more support.
Nurse Navigator Qualifications
Nurse navigators fill a key role. Therefore, they need to have skills and education.
Nurse navigators need at least a bachelor’s of science in nursing or certification from an accredited nursing program.
Some of the soft skills required for this position include:
Ability to work independently: Though these nurses can use the clinical care team, they generally work alone. Their work depends on a keen ability to communicate between parties. Having the ability to work alone helps the whole process work well.
Strong organizational skills: This is a must for navigators. They schedule medical appointments, comply with safety methods, create patient care programs and record data. Having these skills will help promote effective care for patients.
Critical thinking skills: One of the keys to critical thinking is explaining. You need to relay complex information in ways that the patient understands. Another aspect of critical thinking for this role is analysis. To analyze, you need to collect data and making evidence-based decisions. Last, self-regulating helps nurses remove their own biases and assumptions while on the job.
Empathy: The significance of compassion or empathy as a nurse, in general, can’t go understated. The same rings true for nurse navigators. Empathy helps a nurse meet a patient where they are. Nurse navigators deal with a host of patients from various backgrounds, so empathizing with others goes a long way.
Overall, a nurse navigator plays a crucial role in a patient’s treatment. They navigate the patient and lead them to the resources and help to deal with their illness.
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