June, 2018 : Even in 2018, where new chances for cure are being discovered almost daily, facing cancer is often an overwhelming challenge. Patients are forced to make agonizing choices that are not black and white with consequences that can ultimately have life-long effects. Hospitals and cancer centers struggle with finding programs to ensure all patients are given the support and resources to fight the disease and ultimately achieve the best possible outcomes. It requires a team effort. One in which clinical and non-clinical staff work in tandem to ensure every possible barrier to care has been addressed. This is the mission of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center’s lay navigation program.

The development of UNC Lineberger’s lay navigation program was led by Jean Sellers, RN, MSN and Thomas Shea, MD in 2009. In 2017, the Duke Endowment provided funding to expand the program to 12 sites across North Carolina. The goal is to improve cancer outcomes by linking patients to additional resources in their communities. The partner sites are given the tools, training and infrastructure to develop and integrate a model within their own cancer program that will incorporate trained volunteers as lay navigators. Non-clinical individuals are able to connect with patients at a level to ensure they are not only heard, but their concerns and needs are addressed.

Today, UNC Lineberger is pleased to welcome the following sites that have recently completed the initial launch of their own lay navigation program.

  • Mission Health System, Asheville
  • Seby Jones Cancer Center, Boone
  • UNC Caldwell, McCreary Cancer Center, Lenoir
  • UNC Nash, Rocky Mount
  • Vidant Medical System, Greenville

The volunteers’ backgrounds are diverse including retirees from health care, education, business and other walks of life. Some are pre-med students, cancer survivors and/or caregivers. Others may be individuals looking for the satisfaction that comes from knowing they are making a difference in the life of another individual.

“This exciting program offers the opportunity for individuals in each community to make a difference in the lives of their neighbors facing a devastating illness,” said Shea. “Their training and dedication will help to identify and provide resources to patients and family members who are dealing with the stresses and strains presented in their struggle with cancer.”