Nurse Navigators Play a Vital Role for Breast Cancer Patients in the Oncology Clinic

December 10, 2020
Jessica Skarzynski

Nurse navigators play an important role in coordinating and providing timely care, as well as educating and improving the emotional wellbeing of newly diagnosed patients with breast cancer in the oncology clinic, according to a poster presented at the 2020 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS).1

Lead author Tianyi Wang, AB, noted that while past research indicates that nurse navigators, or registered nurses who can serve as patient advocate, educator, and care coordinator, can help empower patients to receive the best care possible, data is lacking when evaluating the effect of nurse navigation on newly referred oncology patients.

Wang and colleagues set out to evaluate the efficacy of nurse navigation on 50 patients before their breast oncology appointment in three main areas: patient knowledge, care coordination, and emotional wellbeing. A mixed-method approach to assessing these areas was used, involving a quantitative survey and qualitative feedback.

All 50 patients, at the UCSF Breast Cancer Center, were given an 8-question survey before their initial appointment:

  • Did you have any contact with a nurse during any of these times of your treatment?
  • Do you feel informed going into your meeting with the doctor?
  • The initial questions I had were answered to my satisfaction prior to my visit.
  • My care is being coordinated effectively in the Breast Care Center.
  • Did speaking with a nurse improve your patient experience?
  • Did speaking with a nurse help you better deal with stressful emotions or anxiety?
  • Speaking with a nurse would improve my patient experience.
  • Speaking with a nurse would help you better deal with stressful emotions?

After completing the survey, patients were then asked to participate in a 5- to-15-minute, open-ended interview, where they were able to provide feedback on their patient experience in the waiting room or appointment room. Twenty-two patients were provided navigation, while 28 were not.

Upon survey analysis, Wang and her team found that a statistically greater proportion of patients who had initial contact with a nurse felt informed before going into their appointment and agreed that their care was effectively coordinated when compared to those who did not have nurse contact before their appointment.

Of note, 17 patients who received navigation (77.3%) agreed that their initial questions were answered in a satisfactory way, compared to 8 (28.6%) who did not receive navigation.

Qualitative findings also showed that patients had an appreciation for the preliminary knowledge their nurse navigator provided, as well as the humanistic care they received. As one patient response in particular noted: “Some patients need hand-holding as well as information on where to seek information…Nurses can provide additional general information which affects

what questions a patient has to ask doctor…like a tree to drive questions.”

These findings led the researchers to conclude that the role of nurse navigators extends beyond simply providing information and timely care coordination, but also provides a “human touch” that could contribute to alleviating negative emotions.

Reference

Wang T, Huilgol Y, Black J et al. Nurse navigation in the ambulatory oncology clinic: Patient-centered findings from a survey of 50 breast cancer patients. Presented at: 2020 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium. Poster PS9-17.