Comparing clinical and nonclinical cancer patient navigators: A national study in the United States

Cancer. 2022 Jul 1;128 Suppl 13(Suppl 13):2601-2609. doi: 10.1002/cncr.33880.


Background: A nationwide survey was conducted to examine differences between clinical and nonclinical oncology navigators in their service provision, engagement in the cancer care continuum, personal characteristics, and program characteristics.

Methods: Using convenience sampling, 527 oncology navigators participated and completed an online survey. Descriptive statistics, χ2 statistics, and t tests were used to compare nonclinical (eg, community health worker) and clinical (eg, nurse navigators) navigators on the provision of various navigation services, personal characteristics, engagement in the cancer care continuum, and program characteristics.

Results: Most participants were clinical navigators (76.1%). Compared to nonclinical navigators, clinical navigators were more likely to have a bachelor's degree or higher (88.6% vs 69.6%, P < .001), be funded by operational budgets (84.4% vs 35.7%, P < .001), and less likely to work at a community-based organization or nonprofit (2.0% vs 36.5%, P < .001). Clinical navigators were more likely to perform basic navigation (P < .001), care coordination (P < .001), treatment support (P < .001), and clinical trial/peer support (P = .005). Clinical navigators were more likely to engage in treatment (P < .001), end-of-life (P < .001), and palliative care (P = .001) navigation.

Conclusions: There is growing indication that clinical and nonclinical oncology navigators perform different functions and work in different settings. Nonclinical navigators may be more likely to face job insecurity because they work in nonprofit organizations and are primarily funded by grants.

Keywords: cancer survivors; community health workers; early detection of cancer; neoplasms; patient navigation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Continuity of Patient Care
  • Humans
  • Medical Oncology
  • Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Patient Navigation*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology