Difficult Conversations: The Role of Nurse Navigator

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Results of a survey investigating the preferences of patients with breast cancer revealed that patients found it more helpful to hear their diagnosis in person.
Results of a survey investigating the preferences of patients with breast cancer revealed that patients found it more helpful to hear their diagnosis in person.
The following article features coverage from the 2018 Oncology Nurse Advisor Navigation Summit. Click here to read more news highlights and expert perspective from the Summit on Oncology Nurse Advisor. 

Evidence shows that nurse navigators involved early in the cancer process can improve the patient experience and reduce problems in care. Non-navigated patients have dissatisfaction over lack of information, not knowing how to navigate the healthcare system, and with communication they received. Nurse navigators can lower patient anxiety by supporting and advocating for what patients prefer in communication such as detailed information about diagnosis and treatment, presenting information clearly, written information, emotional support, and allowing patients time to ask questions.

This presentation addressed critical communication points and suggested interventions with patients in the prediagnostic, diagnostic, posttreatment, and advanced disease phases. Results of a survey investigating the preferences of patients with breast cancer on informing diagnosis revealed that patients found it more helpful to hear their diagnosis in person rather than on the phone. More than other types of providers, when nurse navigators informed patients of their diagnosis they were more likely to give the right amount of support and resources. Patients described four main components that they desire from the initial pathology results disclosure experience: knowing results as soon as possible, having a personal touch/emotional support, receiving the information from an expert, and getting information about their disease and next steps.

After initial treatment is completed many patients report increased anxiety. An opportunity exists for oncology navigators to provide a posttreatment plan and assist patients in survivorship planning and follow up. 

Patients who have a recurrence or who are diagnosed with metastatic disease face significant challenges and the navigator can advocate for clear communication and support preferences. The navigator serves a critical role as “witness” and participant during difficult conversations.

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