Recently, I had the opportunity to go on a road trip to North Carolina. I was traveling unknown roads and used my cellphone navigator to help me reach my destination. I realize this isn't new technology to many people, but it was the first time I had taken advantage of the tools available to me.
It was great to view a summary of the route I was to follow. The mileage and travel-time were also at my fingertips. As I proceeded on my way, the "navigator" would talk and tell me what was up ahead. I was advised to turn left or make a legal U-turn if I happened to go astray. As time passed, I became accustomed to the female voice guiding me and actually looked forward to the sound of it.
Once I reached my destination, I was able to find areas of interest and map out the route to get to those areas. I could adjust the navigator every time the itinerary changed, and each time she led me faithfully to my destination. With the help of my phone navigator, the trip was almost effortless.
As I was returning home and marveling at how wonderful it was traveling with the navigator, I thought of my job as a Nurse Navigator, and hoped that the patients and families I deal with find my navigation a helpful tool for them as they face their cancer journey.
I can preview their journey by explaining the steps from diagnosis to survivorship. Then, each step along the way, I can explain what will happen, when, and why. If a detour is encountered, I can help explain the new route. I can be there with a reassuring voice and answer questions: What tests and procedures will be done for diagnosis? What doctors do they need to see? What is the treatment plan and how long will they be in treatment? What happens when treatment ends? How do they handle side effects? How do they pay for their care?
These are just a few of the questions the Nurse Navigator can answer. The patient has not traveled this road before, but the Navigator knows the way and is there, ready to help.
Navigation is a relatively new service available to cancer patients. Not everyone takes advantage of this new service, but for those who do, I hope we make the journey a little easier.
To learn more about Nurse Navigation, visit The National Coalition of Oncology Nurse Navigators (NCONN) and The Academy of Oncology Nurse Navigators (AONN).