Community Navigators Ease the Transition for Cancer Patients

New Wake County oncology program provides additional support for referring physicians

To ease the way for patients to receive the best cancer care, the Duke Wake County oncology program has added a pair of community navigators whose mission is to streamline the referral process for new patients with a wide range of cancers.
A cancer diagnosis is already daunting for a patient—and referral to an appropriate specialist should not add to that stress. The community navigators offer the advantage that a single phone call or email message can get the transition into the Duke system moving.
The community navigators are nurses with an oncology background who are very familiar with the needs of patients and the ways their needs can vary with their particular kind of cancer, according to JoAnn Beaudoin, EdD, RN, administrative director of Duke Cancer Institute’s Wake County Community Oncology program.
“The navigator reaches out from the time of referral, even before the patient comes in through our doors. She calls the patient to say, ‘I’m sure this is a scary time, but you are in good hands. You are going to see a physician who specializes in your type of cancer. What questions can I answer for you?’” Beaudoin says. “This outreach helps patients feel like someone is looking out for them, that they are not just a number.”
“It is another set of eyes to make sure that the patient is getting in to be seen at the right time, as quickly as they need to according to the type of cancer,” Beaudoin says. Once the patient comes in for an initial consult, a more traditional nurse navigator with expertise in the patient’s type of cancer will take over the case and shepherd the patient through the rest of their treatment journey.

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Beaudoin says that patients are not the only ones to benefit—the program is also aimed at making the lives of referring doctors easier. The two community navigators are calling on area physicians to introduce themselves and establish a relationship aimed at easing the mind of the referring provider.
“Physicians want to get their patients the care they need, as well as receive communication on their progress,” Beaudoin says. “Our community navigators work to make that happen.”