Oncology nurse navigators and patient navigators are helpers at their very core, no matter what the issue may be. In this episode of the AONN+ Heart and Soul of Oncology Navigation podcast, Monica Dean, HON-OPN-CG, Director of Patient Navigation Program Development at AONN+, and Zarek Mena, OPN-CG, Women’s Health Program Manager at Smilow Breast Health Center at Norwalk Hospital, discuss the role a patient navigator plays in assisting their patients through crises.
In this episode, Zarek Mena shares how her patient navigation program had to adapt to food insecurity and the new disparities that are being exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are the top 3 takeaways:
- The first step to addressing disparities is identifying the need in your community. Zarek explains how the role of the patient navigator requires being an advocate, looking for change, and being driven by vision.
- Once you identify the need, partner with your multidisciplinary team, the community, and mutual aid groups. Tackling the crisis you’ve identified is a big task and can’t be done without the help of others. When addressing needs, address them through solidarity, not as charity. In Zarek’s program, the need was food insecurity, so she worked with others to start a food bank.
- Funding can be difficult to secure. Work with your organization’s foundation office and reach out to the community and donors. Funding was essential for Zarek’s program. As they began to see the food bank wasn’t meeting the cultural needs of her patients, funding allowed them to adjust the program and begin assisting patients with gift cards instead of food items.
No one should have to worry about where their next meal is coming from, especially when undergoing cancer treatment. Health disparities have been put under a magnifying glass because of the pandemic, and as navigators we need to address and overcome any barriers a patient may be facing.
To learn more about the Heart and Soul of Oncology Navigation podcast and to view our series schedule,
please visit our podcasts page.
Stay tuned for this month’s episode: Young Adults with Cancer
Wednesday, March 24, 2021, at 7:00 PM ET