When a doctor gives you or a loved one a cancer diagnosis, you may feel at a loss for words and full of different emotions. It is not an easy health topic to handle and you may not know where to start, but that is when a nurse navigator is there to step in and help.
Cancer nurse navigators are registered nurses who are specially trained in cancer care and coordinating treatment among a team of health care providers. Nurse navigators serve as guides and advocates for cancer patients and their families.
According to Joan Filipowski, RN, a Franciscan Health breast and lung cancer nurse navigator in Crown Point, nurse navigators take what could seem like a cold, sterile treatment process for a patient and make it feel warmer, more personal, for both parties. "The nurse navigator provides emotional support and encouragement as a health care provider but makes a new friend in the process," Filipowski said.
Our cancer nurse navigators help patients in several ways:
Medical research and multi-disciplinary data show that nurse navigation makes a difference for oncology patients. A study in the journal Cancer Care, published by the International Society of Nurses in Cancer Care, showed that nurse navigation:
Another study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology reported that oncology patients who had access to a nurse navigator reported fewer problems with their care, including care coordination and patient education, compared with those who were left to navigate the process on their own.
The oncology nurse navigator program is a free service for Franciscan Health patients. "We don't charge for navigation services. Franciscan Health provides nurse navigators because they enhance the patient's experience and increase the quality of care by sealing the gaps," said Karen Norris, RN, a Franciscan Health prostate and colorectal nurse navigator in Indianapolis.
Nurse navigation does not end with treatment. When finished, patients are provided with a Survivorship Care Plan, which is a coordinated, post-treatment plan for you and your entire health care team, including oncologists and primary care doctor. You and your physicians receive a complete history of your cancer care.
Clear steps are provided to identify treatment goals and manage care after active treatment, including guidelines on monitoring for possible secondary cancers, long-term side effects, schedule for follow-up tests and support services. Patients are then reassessed for needs (physical, emotional, and financial) and referred to appropriate programs and resources to get their lives back on track.
Learn more about the cancer nurse navigator program at Franciscan Health.