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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How often will I see or hear from you? 
Some patients prefer to know every detail, and others are happier letting the oncology nurse navigator call them after they’ve resolved a problem. “People will say, ‘I loved my navigator,’” says Shockney, author of Becoming a Breast Cancer Nurse Navigator. “But they might not be able to tell you what the nurse navigator did.” So discuss with your navigator how often you’d like to be in touch and how much you’d like to be involved.

When should I contact you? 
Before tests and treatments begin, learn about the navigator’s limits. For instance, Shockney explains to people that she’s minimally involved in clinical care. So if you’re running a fever, call your oncologist first, because they have the expertise to deal with this kind of problem. The nurse navigator is not the point person for everything, which is why you should find out the appropriate time to contact them.

How can I facilitate our relationship? 
The relationship is a two-way street. For oncology nurse navigators to do their job, says Shockney, you need to be forthcoming. Ask your navigator what they need from you. Tell them if you can’t afford certain treatments, have no more sick days at work or haven’t told friends and family about your chemotherapy. “You need to be honest and candid with oncology nurse navigators,” says Shockney. “They won’t be able to help you to the best of their abilities otherwise.”

October 2012