A cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. You’re suddenly faced with understanding new medical terms, managing treatment plans and scheduling multiple appointments. A nurse navigator can help guide you through each of these steps and serves an important supporting role throughout your entire cancer journey.

Arlene Larin, oncology nurse navigator for the Shady Grove Adventist Aquilino Cancer Center, shares what exactly a nurse navigator does and how this role can help you make sense of your diagnosis and treatment plan.

What does a nurse navigator do?

A nurse navigator is an experienced registered nurse with oncology-specific clinical knowledge. Nurse navigators offer individualized assistance to patients, families and caregivers to help overcome healthcare system barriers. To Arlene, this boils down to one simple responsibility: “As a nurse navigator, I serve as an advocate for my patient – just as all nurse navigators do,” she explains.

“I work as an essential link between patients and all other care providers. I help my patients understand their diagnosis, treatment options and resources that  are available.”

Another important responsibility of nurse navigators –and one that helps take the burden off patients – is to anticipate any barriers to care. This may include transportation, insurance coverage or connecting patients with community programs to offer support at every step of a cancer journey.

As part of our nurse navigation team, Arlene Larin helps patients organize the treatments and support services unique to their diagnoses.

What are the benefits of having a nurse navigator after diagnosis?

“Nurse navigators work with patients and their families at any time of their entire journey, helping them navigate any challenges they may face,” says Arlene. “Those challenges can begin as soon as diagnosis and continue
through treatment, follow-up care and survivorship.”

A nurse navigator is available to answer any questions you or your family may have and works to connect you to the resources and support you need. This on-going support has been shown to help patients relax and focus on what matters most – taking care of your health.

What training does a nurse navigator have?

After gaining enough knowledge and on-the-job experience, nurse navigators can take an exam to become an oncology certified nurse (OCN) or a certified nurse navigator (ONN-CG). “On-going education is an important part of being able to advocate for our patients,” Arlene explains. “Training and courses are available to help nurse navigators advance their knowledge and career.”

“Nurse navigators can seek specialized training in chemotherapy biotherapy, pursue a master’s degree and many other educational opportunities,” she adds. Navigators, like all members of our expert team of caregivers, continually keep up-to-date with the latest best practices.