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A Nurse Navigator: A Patient’s Friend, Educator, and Advocate

  • The nurse navigator role is relatively new to the nursing industry, but what is it?
  • Nurse navigators serve as an invaluable resource to patients and provide them with their company, education, and support.
  • Do you think you have what it takes to become a nurse navigator? Check out Nursing CE Central’s guide here!
Morgan Curry, RN/BSN

Morgan Curry, BSN / RN

Intensive Care, Outpatient Surgery, Aesthetics, Education, and Nursing Leadership

May 19, 2021
Simmons University


If you’ve been in the field of nursing for a while, you may hear the term nurse navigator” being used more often.  

Beginning in the early 90s, the nurse navigator role was created to assist patients in the direction of care upon receiving a cancer diagnosis.  

A nurse navigator wears many hats; they are a friend, communicator, educator, scheduler, and an advocate all in one.  

You must be flexible, and able to adapt on the drop of a dime; do you think you have what it takes? 

 By taking each step of the process right by your patient’s side and giving them the courage they will need, you can make such an amazing impact.

For Starters, What is a Nurse Navigator? 

Although it is a rather new opportunity within the field of nursing, in most cases, a nurse navigator will work specifically in oncology and serve as a guide and resource to their patients throughout the duration of their treatment plan.

Oftentimes, when patients are presented with unexpected, defeating diagnoses and treatment plans, they have feelings of overwhelming anxiety, stress, denial, and fear of the unknown. 

Simultaneously, they are trying their best to take in every detail of their current health status and may have little to no knowledge on medical terminology; to some, it may feel like members of their healthcare team are speaking a different language.  

On top of these stressors, they may be considering external factors of their diagnosis and treatment plan such as the cost, insurance coverage, and various other barriers that may present along the way.  

To put it gently, it is an immensely terrifying time for these patients, and this is where a nurse navigator can help. 

Online registered nursing community,, defines a nurse navigator as one who, “is both translator and guide to ease the journey of fear and uncertainty,” for patients.  

Depending on your facility, it is common for nurse navigators to also be identified as care coordinators, which are defined by the American Nurses Association as, “a function that helps ensure that the patient’s needs and preferences are met over time with respect to health services and information sharing across people, functions, and sites.”



What Roles Does a Nurse Navigator Fulfill? 

The Cancer Institute of HCA Healthcare, Sarah Cannon, outlines a few of the daily tasks and expectations they require from their oncology nurse navigators, these include: 

  • Reinforce patient education on cancer types, treatment options, and clinical trial availability. 
  • Coordinate office visits across medical disciplines to streamline cancer care delivery. 
  • Facilitate communication between all members of healthcare team. 
  • Organize multidisciplinary team conferences to promote collaboration in cancer treatment 
  • Provide a personalized touch to cancer care by visiting patients at appointments, assessing patient’s needs, and relaying relevant information to providers. 
  • Serve as an ongoing source of support for patients and are available to answer ongoing questions. 
  • Help decrease barriers to care by assessing needs and linking patients with support groups and community resources. 


  • Most nurse navigators must have at least a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, as well as a few years of experience in the nursing field. 
  • Of course, if the position you are looking to apply for is in a specific specialty such as oncology, it is very likely that you will need experience in that specialty to make you a competitive candidate. 
  • You must also carry patience, understanding, empathy, and compassion. You will become very close to many of your patients and walk with them on a life-changing journey.
  • You must have strong organizational skills, in order to keep up with your daily tasks plus any extra steps that may come in throughout the day. Flexibility is a must.  

Do you love and cherish the relationships that you build with your patients? Do you love helping them navigate through difficult times? 

 By taking each step of the process right by your patients side and giving them the courage they will need, you can make such an amazing impact.

I guarantee that you will learn a lot along the way as well. 

Do you think you have what it takes?

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