Enhancing Practice

April 2016 Vol 7, No 3


Learning Guide
Katie Bathje, MA, LPPC, HON-OPN-CG
Program Director, Kentucky Cancer Consortium, University of Kentucky, Lexington
Virginia Vaitones, MSW, OSW-C, HON-OPN-CG
Christi Sheffield
Manager of Supportive Care Services,
Bethlehem, PA

As a patient navigator, you function as part of a multidisciplinary care team. In this professional role, it is essential to build trusting relationships with your patients and team members.1 Being responsive to your colleagues and working within your scope are effective ways to build confidence and value. Patient navigators can demonstrate responsiveness through effective organization, time management, problem-solving, critical thinking, and workload management.

Patient navigators contribute to a positive work environment, and collaborative approach to patient care. Communication is the cornerstone of patient-centered care, and, together with assisting patients on their cancer care journey, is paramount to decreasing errors in the delivery of care.2 Patient navigators need to be aware of how the medical team they work with communicates, and what communication skills are necessary to assure patient-centered care. Diversity of communication styles can positively and negatively impact patient care. There will be times when miscommunication and conflicts arise with other health professionals, creating a need for patient navigators to use good conflict resolution skills.3-5

Patient navigators can demonstrate their value and patient impact through formal reviews or program evaluations. Tracking your work and activities informs your stakeholders—administrators, clinicians, and funders—so that they are aware of your role, understand how you interact with medical teams, and know how your work impacts patient health and satisfaction outcomes. This data can be leveraged to promote value, and create quality improvement projects that help you continue enhancing an effective and efficient navigation process.

In addition to tracking your activity and performance, seeking feedback from your peers and stakeholders is an essential element of personal and professional growth. This information can be incorporated into a plan that serves as a useful tool for your career development. Furthermore, patient navigators should pursue continuous learning opportunities to expand their skill set, promote self-care, and for professional development.1

Case Study

Edward has been a patient navigator at Hope Cancer Center for the past 18 months, and was the first navigator hired into this new program. During this time, Edward has noticed that he does not have many referrals for patients with lung cancer compared with other patient populations that consistently refer patients. Because lung cancer is one of the top 10 cancers treated at his cancer center, Edward feels that his volume of patients with lung cancer should be higher. A few of the lung cancer care team members have made comments that make him think they are unaware of the value he brings to the team, or how to even use his services. In addition, one of the surgeons has shared that she thinks navigation is a waste of resources. Edward’s administrator has recently requested a meeting to review the impact of the new navigation program.

Check Your Knowledge

1. What is the most effective method for Edward to demonstrate his value to his administrator?

a. Ask members of his clinical team to provide peer feedback for him
b. Share metrics on the number of patients he has served, and their health outcomes
c. Identify the increase in funding opportunities since he started
d. Provide examples of his stellar teamwork and collaboration

2. What is the best way for Edward to encourage the lung cancer care team to increase referrals to him?

a. Address his concern with the Cancer Committee, and brainstorm ideas with the entire team
b. Increase marketing efforts across the community to promote his services
c. Actively listen to feedback from the lung cancer team, and identify concrete examples of how he can add value for their patients
d. Focus on other disease teams that are more willing to collaborate

3. What metric demonstrates the value of patient navigation to patients?

a. An increase in the amount of grant funding opportunities
b. Increases in team member satisfaction scores
c. Increased patient navigator participation in the Tumor Board
d. An increase in the number of patients connected with resources

4. Self-care is an important aspect of sustaining lifelong personal and professional growth. What is something Edward can do to manage high-stress moments in his role?

a. Use organizational tools to increase his efficiency
b. Attend a conference to learn best practices in patient navigation
c. Define his career goals and track his progress
d. Plan out time to focus on himself and his well-being

5. Responsiveness is a key component of building trust. What is a method of demonstrating responsive behavior?

a. Request feedback from team members
b. Evaluate patient satisfaction improvements
c. Avoid multitasking, and actively communicate
d. Accept all requests from patients and staff


1, B; 2, C; 3, D; 4, D; 5, C.


  1. Pratt-Chapman M, Willis A, Masselink L. Core competencies for oncology patient navigators. Journal of Oncology Navigation & Survivorship. 2015;6:16-21.
  2. Epstein RM, Street RL Jr; National Cancer Institute. Patient-Centered Communication in Cancer Care: Promoting Healing and Reducing Suffering. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute; 2007.
  3. Hughes RG, ed. Patient Safety Quality: An Evidence-Based Handbook for Nurses. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; 2008.
  4. The GW Cancer Institute. Education & training. https://smhs.gwu.edu/gwci/education. Accessed March 11, 2016.
  5. Pratt-Chapman M, Willis A. Community cancer center administration and support for navigation services. Semin Oncol Nurs. 2013;29:141-148.
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Last modified: August 10, 2023

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