Facilitation comes with familiarity, which is why the staff navigators are divided into focus areas: one handles breast cancer; another lung, head, and neck; a third takes on skin cancer; and Robinson-Hawkins handles the rest.
"We broke them up by disease and disease processes because I want each navigator to become close with that physician and close with that physician's team," Robinson-Hawkins says. That closeness had an unintended consequence: Some of the physician office nursing staff thought the navigators were there to take over their responsibilities. Once the navigators were able to demonstrate that their role was coordinating care, not providing it, the office nursing staff saw the value, she says.
An equally important role for the navigator is as an educator. After the initial diagnosis or referral, the navigator will work with the patient to research the condition and suggest where to find trusted sources for reference and education about what to expect in treatment, Robinson-Hawkins says.
"We are there to educate the patient to make sure they're making the right decision for them and their family," she says. "Every patient is different. Nobody is the same. You know, when you have cancer people like to tell you their aunt had the same kind of cancer and they did this or that. What worked for their aunt may not work for them. So if you educate the patient on the disease, the treatment, and what can and what is going to happen, they have a better outcome."