Nurse navigators are ubiquitous in today’s patient-centered healthcare industry. They are the driving force behind many instances of care, from life-saving cancer treatments to elective orthopedic surgeries. Unlike nurses of the traditional model, navigators take on a variety of responsibilities outside the clinical care arena. These men and women have multifaceted skill sets to match the multidisciplinary approach service lines embody and take on multiple roles, often simultaneously.
Now more than ever, patients want active roles in their instance of care. For the most part, physicians have adjusted to meet this expectation.
“Doctors should ask open-ended questions to encourage each patient to describe his or her feelings and concerns about their illness,” Dr. Peter Pronovost, vice president for patient safety and quality at Johns Hopkins Medicine, said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. “When doctors take the time to listen, the treatment decisions and care plans that they develop will better reflect their patients’ wishes; in turn, those plans are more likely to be followed by patients.”
Regulatory bodies like The Joint Commission also encourage this patient-centered approach and encourage patients and their families to get involved as much as possible. Of course, this is easier said than done. Sometimes, patients will freeze up in the face of humbling circumstances. This is when nurse navigators put on their patient advocate hats.
Judith Nakamura, a breast cancer survivor, froze up often during her lengthy instance of care at Presbyterian Healthcare Services in Albuquerque, New Mexico, reported The Wall Street Journal. Each time Nakamura faltered, her nurse navigator stepped in.
“She was the one who answered all the questions I was trying to figure out and coordinated every step for me,” Nakamura said of her navigator Colleen Sullivan-Moore, head of the hospital’s patient navigation team. “She really helped get me through that system.”
Nurse navigators also carry much of the administrative burden within service-line structures. They connect stakeholders from each step in the care process to ensure patients are treated in a timely manner. Navigators also handle pre-operation and discharge planning and often deal with insurance issues. Additionally, many go above and beyond, helping patients with anything from transportation arrangements to counseling sessions.
Though hospitals and providers have made it easier to provide seamless care, problems still persist and patients can fall through the cracks, reported CNN. Nurse navigators guard against these pitfalls and guide their patients through the care process.
Rapid responders and post-op care providers
Like most healthcare professionals who deal directly with patients, nurse navigators are prepared to step in during emergency health situations or other crises. Additionally, some navigators stay with their patients after discharge to make sure rehabilitation goals are met. For elective surgeries like joint replacement procedures, recovery is key and nurse navigators often spearhead this process.