Patient navigators look to connect health systems and communities

The North Carolina Oncology Navigator Association’s annual meeting in Chapel Hill brought together nurses, patient navigators and community health workers to focus on building connections between health systems and communities for the patient’s benefit, said UNC Lineberger’s Jean Sellers, RN, MSN, the association’s president.

Patient navigators look to connect health systems and communities click to enlarge More than 150 nurses, patient navigators and community health workers from North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia participated in the North Carolina Oncology Navigator Association annual conference.
Patient navigators look to connect health systems and communities click to enlarge Boston University's Karen E. Lasser, MD, MPH, spoke on how patient navigators can help promote colorectal cancer screening and smoking cessation.

More than 150 nurses, patient navigators and community health workers from North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia participated in the North Carolina Oncology Navigator Association (NCONA) annual conference at the Friday Center on June 24.

The conference was co-sponsored by the North Carolina Cancer Prevention and Control Branch and received support from the American Cancer Society and UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, which has been a leader in patient navigation for cancer at the national and state levels and has backed NCONA since its inception.

“There is a tremendous benefit when we provide patient navigators the opportunity to learn about their role in the evolving world of cancer care and how to support patients, both inside health care systems and out in the community,” said Jean Sellers, RN, MSN, NCONA president and clinical administrative director of the UNC Cancer Network. “Today’s healthcare system is growing increasingly complex, and patient navigators are critical to helping ensure patients receive high quality, coordinated care in a timely manner.”

The conference focused on bridging health systems and communities and featured a series of talks, including one on how patient navigation can promote colorectal cancer screening and smoking cessation. There was also a panel discussion on how to integrate community health workers into health care teams.  Conference attendees were invited to participate in a study led by UNC Lineberger member Stephanie Wheeler, PhD, that addresses the financial difficulty, which is increasingly known as financial toxicity, some cancer patients experience.