Patient Navigation History

This page provides a brief history of the UNC Cancer Network’s Patient Navigation Program and how it has evolved since its inception.


In an effort to better serve the needs of the North Carolinian cancer patients and their caregivers, UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center identified a number of clinical, education, research and survivorship goals in 2007.  Careful consideration was given to ensure our outreach efforts extended the entire state.  The program goals were to save lives, eliminate barriers to quality care and ensure speedy delivery of appropriate services.

As a result, three different models of patient navigation were developed at the following sites:

Our ability to partner with the academic institution as well as the community cancer hospitals/centers have been identified as an essential component of the success of this program.  Our programs have demonstrated the importance of having both professional and lay navigators working in tandem.  Nurse Navigators have been  shown to have a significant impact in improving the quality of treatment of patients with cancer.  Equally as important is the non-clinical support that patients require.  We have found a unique role for lay patient navigators to work in tandem with the medical team, helping to identify non-clinical barriers to care and connect patients with available local, state and national resources. 

Lay Patient Navigation

Within the initial launch of the nurse navigation model in Dare County, many challenges continued and new challenges emerged.  The number of new patients escalated.  The percentage of uninsured patients continued to pose problems.  Local geography made it difficult for the two nurse navigators to reach some townships, especially in isolated areas.  In January 2009, a dedicated group of concerned citizens met at the home of a community member to discuss these challenges.  Through these discussions, it was determined that many of the non-clinical tasks provided by nurse navigators could be delegated to trained volunteer lay patient navigators.   Following this discussion, a committee began reviewing the models and training from both Harold Freeman’s community patient navigators and JoAnn Earp’s lay health advisors.  Many hours were spent developing a training curriculum, position description, recruitment of lay navigators, recruitment of a volunteer coordinator and marketing the program.  The first training was held in November, 2009. The Hands of Hope, lay patient navigation model was developed in collaboration with the UNC Volunteer Program, the UNC Nurse Navigators in Dare County and the community of Dare County.   Today, the program continues to serve patients and is a part of the Outer Banks Hospital.