Patient Navigators: Help in Charting the Waters of Serious Illness
By Pfizer Medical Team
| Feb 11, 2013
Receiving a serious medical diagnosis like cancer can be overwhelming. Because these diagnoses require immediate next steps like starting treatments and scheduling multiple appointments, there is often quite a bit of information thrown at you, right when you’re least able to process it logically. In addition to what a serious diagnosis may mean for your health, it can add additional pressures to all aspects of your life – work, family, and everyday scheduling.
At this difficult time, a patient navigator might provide the support you need. A service provided by many clinics and hospitals, a patient navigator (or nurse navigator) is a single point of contact that can help you juggle the many aspects of your journey. A navigator can help with language or cultural differences, act as a guide through the complex healthcare system, coordinate appointments and transportation, and communicate with your family and caregivers about care decisions. It’s also not unusual for a patient navigator to serve as an emotional outlet, someone to listen to fears and concerns.
Patient Navigation was founded by Harold P. Freeman, M.D., in 1990, when he initiated and developed the first program at the Harlem Hospital to reduce disparities in access to diagnosis and treatment of cancer, particularly among poor and uninsured people. From Harlem, the navigator concept has spread to many locations across the country.
Here is a list of some national programs that help with navigation and some local programs at specific hospitals. This list doesn’t include every program, so if you think you or your loved one could use help from a navigator, be sure to speak with your physician about what might be available in your area.