Setting Boundaries Can Be a Challenge for Nurse Navigators

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Janelle Wagner, RN, OCN, Senior Manager of Patient Navigation Program for Community Sites, highlights some challenges commonly associated with nurse navigation, and how nurses can overcome them.

Janelle Wagner, RN, OCN, has been an oncology nurse for almost 20 years and an oncology nurse navigator for 5 years.

In an interview with Oncology Nursing News®, Wagner, Senior Manager of Patient Navigation Program for Community Sites, Seattle Cancer Alliance, discusses some of the more difficult components associated with the role. Among them, she mentions the struggle to define clear boundaries, navigate the health care system without trying to fix it, and understanding that patients are now a part of your team.

“Setting boundaries [is difficult],” Wagner explained. “Oncology nurse navigation is a newer field, and there are many different opinions on what the job entails. Being able to set those boundaries and kind of sticking with your standard work to be able to best serve the patient [is crucial]. The challenge is understanding [that] our health care system is so complex, and that you really need to be the point person for that patient to navigate through that system [rather than] trying to fix the system.”

She added that, “If somebody is going to go into this field, they need [to] make sure that they have good leadership, and good pathways for the position. It is really questioning [the following]: what does standard work look like? Who is my team? When you are navigating a patient through the whole continuum of care, it could be across many different organizations. [You need to understand] who that team is and how to utilize [your] skills to help the patient go through the system.”

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