The following article features coverage from the 2017 ONA Navigation Summit in Austin, Texas. Click here to read more of Oncology Nurse Advisor‘s conference coverage. 


Background: Lay cancer patient navigators (LCPN) are volunteers from the community who assist cancer patients in overcoming barriers to receiving quality cancer care. LCPN can address barriers to care (eg, financial burden, psychosocial distress, transportation) and can reduce disparities in access to resources across the continuum of care. There is little data regarding the use of LCPN within academic medical centers.

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Methods: In 2013, 24 breast cancer patients treated at UNC Cancer Network, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center were surveyed to determine unmet needs. We found that 82% reported feeling alone and isolated during treatment and 55% reported lack of awareness about available patient resources. These data supported the development of an LCPN program, in January 2015. Volunteers were provided with comprehensive training that focused on empathetic communication, provision of emotional support, identification of barriers to care, provision of available cancer resources and how to interact with staff to get patient needs met. Volunteers were initially integrated within clinical workflows of the breast clinic to identify and interact with patients felt to potentially benefit from LCPN. 

Results: A total of 30 volunteer lay patient navigators were trained between January 2015 and June 2016. Of the 30, 14 elected to staff a weekly disease-oriented clinic volunteering 3 to 4 hours per week. There have been 1034 patient encounters with 484 encounters in new patients and 550 in repeat patients through June 2016. LCPN completed an encounter form after each patient visit. As a result of these encounters, referrals were provided to the following resources: patient and family resource center (74% ); community resource information (30%); financial counseling (27%); and social work (25%). LCPN report that they feel adequately trained to provide information and meet needs of cancer patients during these visits.

Conclusions: We have developed an infrastructure to support an LCPN program within our academic medical center, and have found that this infrastructure facilitates provision of information to cancer patients that addresses their unmet needs. The model is cost-effective and requires few internal resources other than training and ongoing supervision. Future steps will include development of specific interventions to enhance the dissemination of this model throughout North Carolina.

Read more of Oncology Nurse Advisor‘s coverage of the 2017 ONA Navigation Summit by visiting the conference page.