Meeting the Educational Needs of Oncology Navigators to Navigate the Complexities of the Cancer Care Continuum via Virtual Format

November 2021 Vol 12, No 11
Sharon S. Gentry, MSN, RN, HON-ONN-CG, AOCN, CBCN
Program Director, AONN+
Emily Gentry, BSN, RN, HON-ONN-CG, OCN
Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators
Cranbury, NJ

Background: The Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators conducted a 4-day virtual, live-streamed conference that provided a forum for dialogue among participating navigators who provide navigation and survivorship care services for oncology patients. General sessions and breakout meetings fostered discussion regarding the complexities of the cancer care continuum, financial considerations, access to screening and treatment, the impact of personalized care, psychosocial considerations, and the challenges of various healthcare delivery models. A literature review showed that the high interactivity and networking in virtual learning creates an effective learning environment.1,2

Learning Objectives: Upon completion of the 2021 educational activity, participants were expected to be able to:

  • Describe the role of navigators in supporting personalized cancer care
  • Evaluate best practices in building an oncology navigator program
  • Define the role of navigators in advising cancer patients on COVID screening
  • Incorporate information regarding various navigation models and best practices to improve the quality of cancer patient care
  • Describe best practices in financial navigation for cancer patients and their caregivers

Methods: To gauge the audience’s understanding of navigation, they were surveyed about their years of experience and awareness of navigation performance improvement initiatives and the associations between cancer and mental health. Changes in audience knowledge and competencies were evaluated using a pre- and postactivity survey and a 3-month follow-up survey on self-reported practice changes.

Results: The meeting was attended by 235 practitioners from 40 states. Sixty-three percent were practicing in community settings, and 92% of attendees were nurse navigators. Fifty-four percent of practitioners completing the survey stated they had worked with oncology patients in their present position for 0 to 5 years. In a presurvey, 63% of attendees stated they were very familiar or familiar with the role of the navigator in performance improvement initiatives, and 72% of attendees were confident in their familiarity with the associations between cancer and mental health. As a result of their participation in this activity and interacting with other participants in the chat mode, 100% of the participants strongly agreed or agreed that they were better able to meet the learning objectives of the conference. On the 3-month follow-up, 67% stated they had made changes to their practice because of their participation in the conference, with the focus of change centered around patient education (39%), documentation (24%), and treatment approach (17%).

Conclusions: As evidence in the literature demonstrates that virtual learning creates effective learning environments, this format enables all levels of personnel to interact, share best practices, build professional confidence, and learn care strategies that can result in changes to their current practice. Oncology navigation continues to grow as a field, and virtual learning environments will help foster its ongoing development.


  1. Schmidt-Crawford DA, Lindstrom DL, Thompson AD. Moving Online in 2020: Lessons Learned from Successful Virtual Conferences. Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education. 2021;37:1:4-5.
  2. Cartledge S, Gallagher C, Rawstorn JC, et al. It’s easier than you think to make a conference virtual: learning from our pandemic experience. Eur J Cardiovasc Nurs. 2021;16:zvab044.
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Last modified: August 10, 2023

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