The Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators (AONN+) and the American Cancer Society (ACS) National Alliance Partnership Collaboration: Key Findings from a Survey and Interviews with AONN+ Local Navigator Network Leaders on Building and Sustaining Networks
Background: The ACS received grant funding from the Merck Foundation to explore navigator network development, implementation, and sustainability. Because the ACS is in a national alliance partnership with the AONN+, and together they are committed to advancing the field and profession of patient navigation, they collaborated to collect lessons learned from existing AONN+ local navigator networks (LNNs) on their development, implementation, and sustainability. There is no current clinical evidence in the literature related to LNN development, sustainability, or implementation.
Objectives: To develop a white paper outlining effective strategies shared by the AONN+ LNN leaders by conducting a survey and interviews to gain a better understanding of their experiences in launching a network, understanding the factors that contributed to their successes, exploring challenges they encountered, and discovering resources to help facilitate success and support sustainability.
Methods: A 40-item survey about AONN+ LNN implementation and sustainability was developed by the AONN+ and ACS subject matter experts. All 24 existing AONN+ LNNs in 2019 were invited to participate in the survey via an e-mail containing a link to the survey. To learn more about their network development, a small group of 10 leaders were invited via e-mail to participate in a 9-item informal structured follow-up phone interview with an ACS and AONN+ subject matter expert. Interviews were scheduled with 5 leaders who accepted the e-mail invitation to participate.
Results: Twenty-three leaders representing 15 networks responded (62.5% response rate) to the survey. Leaders noted that AONN+ mentorship, program champions, as well as leadership organization skills, were critical to successful implementation. Factors that contributed to their success were networking among peers in the same institution or with those outside their practice, ability to share resources and discover new ones, and having multidisciplinary members attend meetings. Challenges they cited were around membership attendance due to travel distance and technology resistance to a virtual platform. Other difficulties were getting members to help schedule meetings, identify discussion topics, find sponsors, and show interest to serve in a position or on a board. For sustainability, membership buy-in, pharmaceutical meeting support, and media communication were vital.
Five leaders participated in the interview and provided lessons learned from their network implementation and sustainability. Leaders noted that engaged leaders, AONN+, established and past network mentoring and resources, and buy-in and support from employers, patient care organizations, pharma, and network members were critical to successful development.
Conclusions: Collaboration between national organizations supporting navigation has resulted in a white paper that is in development to summarize lessons learned from AONN+ LNN development, implementation, and sustainability into recommendations to support other leaders wanting to launch or maintain a successful network. The development of a toolkit to supplement the current AONN+ LNN online resources and mentoring to help facilitate the launch and growth of networks was strongly supported by AONN+ LNN leaders and is being planned. Also, AONN+ is planning future leader activities to promote leadership development, and sharing of best practices and lessons learned.