A new study finds that nurse navigators provide crucial emotional support and guidance for people diagnosed with cancer. Additionally, patients report significantly fewer problems with care as a result of nurse intervention.
The study, “Nurse Navigators in Early Cancer Care: A Randomized, Controlled Trial,” was published in the November Journal of Clinical Oncology. It focused on whether nurse navigator intervention improved quality of life and patient experience for 251 adults recently given a diagnosis of breast, colorectal, or lung cancer.
Researchers found that patients who had access to a nurse navigator soon after diagnosis reported feeling that they had better emotional support, were better informed, and were more involved in their care, Medscape Medical News reports. Patient outcomes typically improve when patients are more involved in their care and self-care, researchers said.
For the study, 118 participants were randomly assigned to receive oncology nurse navigator support and 133 received enhanced usual care (the control group). Patients in the intervention group received weekly phone calls from a nurse navigator and met with that nurse in person at least once during the four-week period. The control group received educational material designed by a patient advisory committee.
Nurse Navigator Intervention Effective and Efficient
Patients in the nurse navigator group reported significantly better scores on the Patient Assessment of Chronic Illness Care and had significantly fewer problems with care, especially psychosocial care, care coordination, and information, according to the study.
The intervention also yielded an unanticipated cost benefit. While cumulative costs after diagnosis did not differ significantly between the two groups; costs were $6,852 less for lung cancer patients in the nurse navigator group.
The nurse navigators involved in the trial had previous experience with cancer patients and received special training to deal with psychosocial distress, which may have been factors in the success of the interventions, according to Edward H. Wagner, MD, MPH, the lead author. Wagner is senior investigator at Group Health Research Institute.
The benefits for disadvantaged patients may be even greater than those found in this study, researchers said. The trial intervention participants were generally well educated, insured, and of higher income.
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