The Breast Health Navigator

The role of the Breast Health Navigator evolved to meet the changing demands of managed healthcare and reimbursement issues. In the 1990s, as healthcare moved patients to outpatient care to control costs, it greatly changed the contact and time spent with professional healthcare providers. Physicians and nurses had limited time to instruct and support the patient after a diagnosis. This decrease in time created problems in teaching self-care skills, providing anticipatory guidance and for triage to ancillary services when needed. As a result, huge gaps occurred in the quality-of-life issues for patients as they struggled to learn how to care for themselves in the home environment.

A breast cancer diagnosis has many clinical and service challenges. A diagnosis affects both the physical and mental well-being of the patient. It alters her self-esteem, body image and sexuality. The complexity of the issues—focus on patient teaching along with social and emotional support, pursuit for better clinical quality and the arrival of new treatment modalities—required a trained nurse case manager with the ability to increase patient outcomes and patient satisfaction while containing costs. Thus, in the early 1990s, healthcare created the role of the Breast Health Navigator to meet the complexities of breast cancer outpatient management.

Defining the Role of the Breast Health Navigator

No matter what the title, the chain of command or the number of procedures performed daily, there is a commonality among nurses who care for women with breast health concerns. She addresses both the art and the science of breast healthcare and redefines the patient’s experience.

Why is a Breast Health Specialist/Navigator Valuable?

How the Breast Health Specialist/Navigator Expedites
Her Role

The Breast Health Navigator serves as a consistent care coordinator throughout the continuum of care assessing the healthcare barriers and the physical, psychological, and social needs of the patient. She provides the patient with educational, emotional and social support. The assessment is relayed to a multidisciplinary team to collaboratively design a care plan with desired outcomes. The Breast Health Navigator focuses on achieving the healthcare outcomes within effective and realistic time frames. She monitors the patient and triages needed services across all product or service lines while removing barriers and ensuring proper access to these services. In addition, she extends services to help the family learn care-giving skills and patient self-care skills. Teaching the patient and family self-care skills, including physical and psychological, reduces acute annoyances, costly hospitalizations and inappropriate medical care access. The results are enhanced patient outcomes, increased satisfaction and reduced costs of care.

Knowledge and Skills Required for Breast Health Specialist/Navigator