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What is a patient navigator?

By DANIELLE WHITE

Our mission is simple. We are here to eliminate barriers to timely and effective diagnosis and treatment of cancer in our community. In fact, cancer is the No. 1 killer in eastern North Carolina — due in part to many cancers being detected in later stages. Early diagnosis is imperative to promote health and quality of life within our community. While there are cancer centers available in eastern North Carolina, many of our residents are underserved. Our goal is to help those dealing with a cancer diagnosis gain access to the best cancer services possible, which includes finding cancer services that are as close to home as possible. The navigator is able to assist in these needs to promote an overall quality of care and assistance for a variety of individuals.

Vidant Health is committed to assisting patients, family members and loved ones in their journey with cancer. All of Vidant Health offers a system-wide Navigator Program that focuses on improving care coordination, enhancing access to care, providing multi-disciplinary support, connecting patients to support services, enhancing patient education and attracting and retaining patients. Navigation started in 1990 and has come a long way in 29 years. Originally, the idea was pioneered by Harold P. Freeman, a physician at Harlem Hospital in New York. Freeman realized that patients who were poor or uninsured did not receive quality care because they had no assistance in navigating the medical system. In more recent years, patient navigation services has continued to grow and evolve in healthcare nationwide. In fact, in 2010, the Commission on Cancer added patient navigation services to its standards for cancer program accreditation.

Although navigators can have different roles at different facilities, they share common goals and strive to provide patients with the highest quality of care as possible. This may include providing patients with education, psychosocial support and access to resources. Navigators are able to act as a liaison between providers and other members of the multi-disciplinary team. Navigators are also unique in that they can follow a patient from diagnosis to end of life. Navigators have been found to play a huge role in the transition to end-of-life care. At Marion L. Shepard Cancer Center, we strive to help you through the many challenges related to cancer diagnosis and treatment. Please understand that this service is free. It is also important to note that individuals do not have to be a patient of our cancer center to receive navigation services. While navigators may play many roles, here are a few roles that our navigator may assist with:

  • Locating resources
  • Insurance issues
  • Prescription assistance
  • Feelings of anxiety and distress
  • Information about care and treatment
  • Financial concerns
  • Transportation issues
  • Applications and paperwork
  • Organizing appointments
  • Supportive counseling
  • Emotional and practical support from diagnosis to treatment
  • Assist in locating culturally appropriate and supportive care
  • Follow-up after treatment is complete

The Marion L. Shepard Cancer Center is dedicated to serving patients, caregivers and families. Our navigation services can provide one point of contact for cancer patients and help to eliminate some of the confusion and ease some of the fear that may come along with a cancer diagnosis.

Please allow our navigator to assist with any barriers to care. If you, a loved one or someone you know have been diagnosed with cancer, please contact the Marion L. Shepard Cancer Center for further resources, assistance and support or more information about navigation or to make a referral to our navigation services.

Danielle White, oncology nurse navigator of the Marion L. Shepard Cancer Center of Vidant Beaufort Hospital, can be reached at 252-975-4308.