What a year it has been since launching the “Oncology Navigation Standards of Professional Practice” published by the Professional Oncology Navigation Task Force (PONT) in March 2022. These standards were developed by PONT to provide clinical oncology nurse navigators, social work navigators, and patient navigators with clear information regarding best practices in professional care. The standards include the knowledge and skills all professional navigators should possess to deliver high-quality, competent, and ethical services to people impacted by cancer. The task force comprised the Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators (AONN+), the Association of Oncology Social Work, the Association of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurses, and the Oncology Nursing Society, as well as patient organizations the Cancer Support Community and the Smith Center for Healing and the Arts.
Since their release, we have seen growing use of the standards in navigation practice. This commentary will highlight 3 unique applications of the standards.
In late 2022, the Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network (MCCAN) launched their first Navigation Ambassador Program. It was developed for the 19 MCCAN affiliates across Kentucky that are utilizing the AONN+ Navigation Metrics Toolkit and the “Oncology Navigation Standards of Professional Practice” to enhance their navigation program. Participants are taken on an in-depth journey through the metrics and standards. The program began with an in-person workshop covering the development of both tools and continued over 8 months with live webinars, recorded videos, and homework assignments. These were designed to assist the ambassadors in reviewing their current practices and aligning them with the metrics and standards to improve their processes, increase the quality of patient care, and demonstrate the effectiveness and value of oncology navigation. Twenty-one navigators from 17 facilities across the network are participating in this program. It was an honor for AONN+ Leadership; Emily Gentry, BSN, RN, HON-ONN-CG, OCN; and me to speak with them as they lead the way for their navigation program.
In January 2023, the standards were referenced in The Community Guide published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: The Community Preventative Services Task Force (CPSTF) Recommends Patient Navigation Services to Increase Cancer Screening and Advance Health Equity.1 The Community Guide recognized patient navigation as an intervention to increase cancer screening and to continue to advance health equity. We are proud to see the standards highlighted in such an impactful body of work.
Lastly, Georgia Gwinnett College located in Lawrenceville, GA, applied the standards to its very first graduating patient navigation degree program practicum. I learned of the program via a press release from their patient navigation degree program in 2020 and connected with Nina Cleveland, PhD, MPH, BSW, PN, who is the department chair of Public Health and Patient Navigation and assistant professor at the School of Health Sciences. Because I grew up in Lawrenceville, speaking to this impressive class was even more meaningful.
The field of navigation continues to evolve, as will these standards. We have embarked on the beginning of impactful work to push the profession of navigation forward. For the first time, after decades of this work, we have come together as a profession to agree on definitions and standards of practice. We are also pleased to see that within the Patient Navigation Assistance Act (HR 9285),2 language from the standards is referenced, thus moving navigation to what we hope will be a reimbursable service to patients with cancer.
As with metrics, we don’t expect programs to apply all 19 standards but rather to use them as a framework to start or enhance an existing program. As a field, we have more to do to continue to promote these standards. We thank organizations such as the American Cancer Society National Navigation Roundtable and countless others who have promoted this important body of work.
Read More About The Oncology Navigation Standards of Professional Practice
- The Community Guide. CPSTF Recommends Patient Navigation Services to Increase Cancer Screening and Advance Health Equity. www.thecommunityguide.org/news/cpstf-recommends-patient-navigation-services-increase-cancer-screening-advance-health-equity.html.
- Congress.gov. H.R.9285 - Patient Navigation Assistance Act. www.congress. gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/9285/text.