Working With an Oncology Nurse Navigator

When dealing with metastatic cancer, an oncology nurse navigator will help you along the journey.

Francesca Di Meglio
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Oncology nurse navigators are among the greatest supporters and advocates of people with metastatic cancer. Once known as case managers, nurse navigators are charged with helping you overcome obstacles to your care, such as needing transportation to treatments or finding a bed when hospitalization is necessary.

Essentially, nurse navigators help you with everything from the practical (helping arrange transportation for you on the day of your treatment) to the emotional (giving support if you don’t want to tell your family and friends about your treatment).

Usually, the hospital or medical center assigns you a nurse navigator. But you can establish the type of relationship you’d like to have with them right from the start—and getting these questions answered is a good beginning:

Can you explain your role in my cancer care? 
Oncology nurse navigators aim to offer whatever help you need to have your care delivered completely and effectively, says Lillie Shockney, RN, BS, MAS, director for the Johns Hopkins Breast Center and administrative director of the Cancer Survivorship Programs at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore. For starters, they’ll determine if anything may impede you from getting the right care at the right time delivered in the right way.

For example, they can refer you to experts who can help you navigate insurance to determine what’s covered and what isn’t. The navigator also educates you on your treatment options. The navigator is key to keeping your care coordinated, too. “We shouldn’t be doing treatment to  a patient,” says Shockney. “We should be doing treatment with a patient.”

October 2012