Oct 21, 2022 Helping You Navigate Your Cancer Journey

nurse with patient

Oncology nurse navigators offer comprehensive support and services to patients and their caregivers.

Being diagnosed with cancer is life-changing. It can have a profound effect on your psyche, leaving you feeling frightened, confused and overwhelmed. At the same time, you need to make calm, clear and timely decisions about important matters such as doctors and treatment options.

That’s why RWJBarnabas Health (RWJBH) and Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, the state’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, developed the Oncology Nurse Navigation Program.

For a person with cancer, a nurse navigator is not just a valuable resource, but a smiling face and a caring individual to help you and your family maneuver the often uncharted territory of your cancer journey.

Jeanne Silva, MSN, RN-BC, Assistant Vice President, Oncology Access and Nurse Navigation, Oncology Services, explains what the Oncology Nurse Navigation Program is and how it works.

What does the Oncology Nurse Navigation Program do?

If you’re diagnosed with cancer and are a patient at RWJBH, the program places an expert at your side who advocates for you and provides direction, support and information through all phases of treatment at no additional charge. The nurse navigator is the hub of your care team, communicating your needs across departments and answering your questions about what to expect, what to do, where to go and why. Having a trusted, committed expert guiding you helps you participate fully in treatment decisions, achieve quality outcomes and reduce stress.

When was the program developed, and how has it changed since its inception?

The RWJBH nurse navigation program began in 2018 with 18 navigators. Today we have 45 navigators and are growing. Oncology nurses receive navigation-specific training as well as ongoing education to improve care through measures such as shortening the time between diagnosis and meeting with an oncologist and improving access to palliative care.

Our program is the state’s largest. We routinely conduct quality improvement projects and have presented our outcomes nationally to share best practices. We are one team across our facilities. If you see an oncologist from Rutgers Cancer Institute, for example, but want to receive radiation therapy closer to home or need to see an RWJBH subspecialist, we help coordinate your care seamlessly between sites.

What are some benefits that patients might find surprising?

You’re quickly assessed for any barriers to care and provided resources to overcome them. Barriers often include lack of knowledge, transportation difficulties and financial hurdles. Helping you ease worries allows you to focus on getting well. One aspect is that anxiety and fear of the unknown sometimes prevent people from starting potentially life-saving treatments. We’ll assess this and provide support so you can get the right care. Or, for example, if you’re a candidate for a clinical trial, the navigator can educate you about that and connect you with a research team.

Each navigator brings a wealth of knowledge, energy and empathy. You’re unique with your own story, and the navigator is there to listen and help.

New patients seeking cancer care at Rutgers Cancer Institute or RWJBarnabas Health can call 844-CANCERNJ or 844-226-2376.