Purpose/Objectives: To delineate the role of the oncology patient navigator, drawing from the experiences and descriptions of younger women with breast cancer.
Research Approach: Interpretive, descriptive, qualitative research design.
Setting: Participants' homes, researcher's home, and via telephone, all in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
Participants: 12 women aged 50 years or younger who were diagnosed with breast cancer within the last three years.
Methodologic Approach: Face-to-face semistructured interviews explored patient experiences with the cancer care system, including problems encountered, unmet needs, and opinions about the functions of the patient navigator role. The audio-recorded interviews were transcribed and data were broken down and inductively coded into four categories. Constant comparative techniques also were used during analysis.
Findings: The role of the oncology patient navigator included two facets: "Processual facets," with the subthemes assigned to me at diagnosis, managing the connection, mapping the process, practical support, and quarterbacking my entire journey; and "Personal qualities: The essentials," with the subthemes empathetic care tenor, knowing the cancer system, and understanding the medical side of breast cancer.
Conclusions: Despite the tremendous effort directed toward enhancing care for younger women undergoing treatment for breast cancer, gaps continue to exist. Younger women with breast cancer require a care approach providing ongoing dialogue, teaching, and emotional support from the point of diagnosis through treatment, including transitions of care within the oncology setting and back to their primary care practitioner.
Interpretation: Oncology nurse navigators are well positioned to provide patients with anticipatory guidance from diagnosis to the end of treatment.