Many people are talking about ‘Navigation’ in the cancer world. This is a term that is being used more often to describe people who are designated to link patients/families to the appropriate resources (this can be financial, emotional or psychosocial). Navigators truly help ‘navigate’ the cancer world and the multitude of resources available. When patients are newly diagnosed, especially, I often find they are bombarded with information from various places which can create great anxiety. I am a strong advocate in empowerment of patients to seek out resources as they need. However, equally as important as empowering folks, is to connect them with a navigator early on who can provide linkage to the most appropriate support needed. As an Oncology Social Worker, I spend much of my time connecting patients with resources as they feel overwhelmed or alone. Navigators, in addition to clinic social workers, like myself, can relieve some of that burden and help do some of that ‘homework’ for the patients and families. One of the many benefits of Navigators is they can continue to follow up with their patients to ensure they are getting all of their needs met. This continuity is extremely important in the success of and quality of life for the patients.
As an oncology social worker, I often utilize the LIVESTRONG Navigation Services to compliment the care I am providing. I recently had a patient call who had completed his treatment and voiced significant concerns with what “to do now.” He was quite forthright about his emotions and how very confused he seemed about his role in society now even after completing treatment a few years ago and also how his emotions are affecting his marriage. I immediately felt like a referral to the LIVESTRONG psychosocial navigators would be appropriate. LIVESTRONG does a wonderful job at focusing on aftercare and survivorship issues. After exploring this option with the patient, we called LIVESTRONG from my office to initiate a referral. He felt very comfortable with having another support resource to help him cope with his very normal and appropriate feelings. I felt confident that between my support here and LIVESTRONG, he would certainly have the tools he needed to tackle the world again and see he DOES have a meaningful place in life.
When folks are diagnosed, there are often many issues that arise above and beyond just the diagnosis. Patients often feel stress and strain around the financing of care, the emotional effects of care, the impact on their ability to work, how to talk with their children and so many more concerns. Navigators are such a wonderful asset in guiding patients through that maze of emotions and reassuring them there are resources at their disposal. Folks are so much more than their diagnosis. Needs come up that one wouldn’t even think about. With the opening of LIVESTRONG Navigation Center, the cancer community will have a wealth of resources at their finger tips. Patients can walk in/or make an appointment with a Navigator. It is a very comfortable and non threatening way to ease into the world of cancer care and have the tremendous support right with you fighting the fight. The LIVESTRONG Navigators are a compliment to what many of us who work in the cancer world. I feel that in order to be the best we can for our patients, we must be good stewards of and reach out to the multitude of resources we have. This way our patients are educated and have the tools they need for a very successful journey.
Laura E. Perkins, LSW
Texas Oncology-South Austin Cancer Center