Patient navigation is a relatively new health service in Canada, but one that Nova Scotia nurse and patient navigation expert Sandra Cook says the system can’t afford to lose. More than 10 years ago, research showed that cancer patients didn’t know where to find information or how to get through the province’s complicated cancer care system, making the journey even more challenging.
So in 2001, Cook and her colleagues at Cancer Care Nova Scotia created their cancer patient navigator program (CPNP) to help patients throughout the entire care process, from diagnosis and treatment to follow-ups and supporting cancer survivors. CCNS found great success in the CPNP, noting its usefulness in assisting Aboriginals, immigrants, and people from rural and remote communities. A recent healthcare series in the Vancouver Sun found that patient navigators are improving healthcare access and experience in other jurisdictions that have adopted similar programs, including Aboriginals in British Columbia, and more patients in Regina, Sask., and Red Deer, Man.
Despite its benefits, patient navigation has yet to become a standardized service. Cook remains a strong advocate, saying that it isn’t a “frill” service, but a necessary one. She continues to offer consultation, give presentations on the CPNP, and was a major contributor to the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer’s patient navigation manual for medical professionals.