What Is an Oncology Navigator?

prostate navigator

Tavane Harrison, CNP and prostate navigator, visits with a patient at the Avera Cancer Institute Sioux Falls.

A cancer diagnosis can feel like the beginning of a long and confusing journey. Having a supportive, professional resource who can help answer questions, provide reminders and be that one steady person to guide the patient though the journey is comforting to patients and their families. Navigators are that constant care team member who often can see the “big picture” and can help oversee symptoms and total treatment needs.   

Navigators, available at the Avera Cancer Institute Sioux Falls and Avera Breast Center, are a constant presence for the patient and family throughout the cancer care journey.

Who are navigators?

  • Navigators at Avera Cancer Institute Sioux Falls are typically certified nurse practitioners; but in general, depending on their specific role, they may also be a nurse, medical assistant or specialized radiologic technologist.
  • While navigator job descriptions can vary between program needs, assisting patients with their needs is the top priority.
  • They are educational consultants for the patient and also are supportive professionals who can help with emotional and coping needs.  

 What do navigators do?

  •  The health navigator answers questions, provides education to help patients understand their diagnosis so the patient is better able to make treatment decisions, facilitates appointments, and keeps patients informed of available resources and support services.
  • Navigators work as someone who is proficient and knowledgeable about a specific disease.
  • They serve as a go-between for the patients when they have multiple physicians and appointments.  
  • Most navigators will be as involved as the patient needs them to be. Some patients may have needs and questions that require a few conversations each week during treatment, and some individuals may only need periodic support. 

Whether going through tests to rule out a cancer diagnosis or managing the many appointments that occur after a cancer diagnosis, having knowledgeable and supportive resources can be invaluable. 

Navigators for Patients With Specific Cancers

The navigation program at the Avera Cancer Institute Sioux Falls provides patient navigators in four key tumor areas:

 History of Navigators

The American Cancer Society first introduced a Navigator program in 1990 for patients at Harlem Hospital. The goal was to reduce disparities for patients with cancer and even other diseases by facilitating communication between different health care resources and the patients. The initial program was a great success. Since that time oncology navigation has been recognized as an important position to have within a comprehensive cancer care team.

Other Resources

Your health care provider or their team is an excellent resource. Avera provides online resources for patients and families. Cancer may steal your hair, energy and immunity. We won’t let it steal your spirit. Learn how Avera does cancer care differently and read patient stories.

The Avera Cancer Institute is made up of six major locations and 40 clinics to ensure your treatment is never far away. View the interactive map to find cancer care locations throughout the region.

By Jill Schultz

Director of Breast Health at Avera McKennan

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