The diagnostic phase of cancer care is an anxious time for patients. Patient navigation is a way of assisting and supporting individuals during this time. The aim of this review is to explore patient navigation and its role in the diagnostic phase of cancer care. We reviewed the literature for definitions and models of navigation, preparation for the role and impact on patient outcomes, specifically addressing the role of the nurse in patient navigation. Interviews and focus groups with healthcare providers and managers provided further insight from these stakeholder groups. Common to most definitions of navigation is the navigator's multifaceted role in facilitating processes of care, assisting patients to overcome barriers and providing information and support. Navigation may be provided by laypersons, clerical staff and/or healthcare professionals. In the diagnostic phase it has the potential to affect efficiency of diagnostic testing, patients' experience during this time and preparation for decision-making around treatment options. Patient care during the diagnostic phase requires various levels of navigation, according to individual informational, physical and psychosocial needs. Identifying those individuals who require more support--whether physical or psychosocial--during the diagnostic phase is of critical importance.
© 2010 Cancer Care Ontario.