Breast health navigation
at Community Health Network

Breast health navigation plays a significant role in the patient's breast cancer journey. The breast health navigator meets with the newly diagnosed breast cancer patient at the time of diagnosis and then follows the patient throughout the course of treatment, coordinating appointments, while providing education as well as psychological and social support to patients and their families. The course of treatment may include surgical oncology, medical oncology, radiation oncology, as well as reconstructive surgery.

At the initial surgical consult, each patient is given an individualized notebook with educational materials specific to the diagnosis and a copy of the pathology report. Patients are encouraged to call their navigator with any questions or concerns. By encouraging open communication between patients and their healthcare team, we are encouraging patients to become active participants in their plan of care.

Navigators are available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. by telephone and until 8 p.m. by pager. The patient is never discharged from navigation services; instead, the patient is followed into survivorship. The navigation team facilitates support groups for survivors and is working on a support group for caregivers.

Our navigation team at Community Health Network consists of four registered nurses and one assistant. The nurses have completed specialized education in breast health navigation. Three of the four hold dual certifications in oncology and breast health through the Oncology Nursing Society. The fourth navigator plans to become certified once she is eligible. Combined, the nurses have a wide range of experience in radiation oncology, medical oncology and surgery. This expertise helps the navigator better guide patients through their treatment plan.

While working with the newly diagnosed breast cancer patients is the main focus of breast health navigation, it is not the only function. The navigators are available to anyone with a breast health issue. The navigation contact information is available online and in some of the physician offices. Attending health fairs, talking with women's groups and spreading the importance of early detection are other key roles of navigation. Keeping other health care members up to date on current trends in breast care is yet another role of navigation.

The physician's trust and belief in navigation at Community Health Network is one of the main reasons for the success of the program. The physicians consider the navigators an integral part of the multidisciplinary approach to breast cancer care.

Navigation helps the physicians and nurses, as well as the patients, by being available to answer questions while providing continuity of care. The continuity of care for the breast cancer patient from initial diagnosis throughout the entire plan of care is what sets Community Health Network's navigation program apart from the rest.

—Claudia Davis, R.N., OCN, CBCN