Patient navigators help guide the cancer journey

Apr 19, 2022 | Jennifer O'Hara | @jenohara

A cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming, and patients often have many questions about what their cancer journey will entail. At Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, patient navigators help guide patients through the health care system.

Patient navigators are active members of the health care team, assessing and addressing a patient's immediate needs and identifying obstacles that might prevent them from getting the care they need. Patient navigators help patients and their families access cancer information, find resources to meet day-to-day needs, and offer emotional support.

"Our role as patient navigators is to support with a lot of the nonclinical sides of their cancer journey, whether that's logistics, transportation or issues with lodging when they're coming to a Mayo Clinic site for care," explains Laura Kurland, a Mayo Clinic Cancer Center patient navigator. "Oftentimes, we're helping them understand the finances, whether that's insurance, or other things that are going to be coming up that are going to be financial stressors for them as they're going through their cancer care. And certainly, we're there to lend an ear and offer support as they're learning how to truly navigate the medical system."

The Mayo Clinic Cancer Center has both general patient navigators who assist all patients and patient navigators who serve specific cultural patient populations. Mayo Clinic currently has navigators on staff serving these communities: Hispanic/Latino, American Indian/Alaskan Native and African descent.

Kurland serves the Hispanic/Latino population and explains the important role the culture-specific patient navigators play.

"The patient populations that we work with come with different experiences," says Kurland."So our goal is to understand the values they bring and support them with what their needs are. Whether there are language barriers, or there are just gaps in cultural misunderstandings, our role is to help bridge those gaps, clarify misunderstandings and also be advocates to those populations."

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Kurland discusses the importance of patient navigators, why culture-specific navigators are needed, and how she helps patients access the care and support they need.

To practice safe social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, this interview was conducted using video conferencing. The sound and video quality are representative of the technology used. For the safety of its patients, staff and visitors, Mayo Clinic has strict masking policies in place. Anyone shown without a mask was recorded prior to COVID-19 or recorded in an area not designated for patient care, where social distancing and other safety protocols were followed.

Read the full transcript.

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