Phoenix, AZ—Nurse and patient navigators from all over the country attended the Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators (AONN+) 2017 West Coast Regional Meeting in April. The meeting provided a forum for open dialogue around navigation and survivorship care services for patients with cancer, fostered lively discussions regarding the complexities of cancer care in the rapidly growing field of navigation, and led to new ideas for the improved delivery of navigation and survivorship care services.
This year’s agenda focused on current oncology navigation trends, such as metrics, financial toxicity, access to screening and treatment, onco-politics, psychosocial considerations, and the growing demand for immunotherapy. The conference also featured a special town hall meeting, and offered nurse and patient navigators the opportunity to earn AONN+ professional certification by taking the Oncology Nurse Navigator–Certified Generalist (ONN-CG) or the Oncology Patient Navigator–Certified Generalist (OPN-CG) exams. In the coming months and years, AONN+ will begin to offer subspecialty organ site–specific certifications to increase specialty certification in the field.
“The number 1 benefit of coming to a smaller meeting like this is to be able to network more closely with others. Sometimes in a larger meeting it’s easier to just sit back and listen, but here, the networking is very strong, and attendees feel they have access to the leadership,” said Sharon Gentry, RN, MSN, AOCN, CBCN, AONN+ Conference Co-Chair.
“We don’t have a lot of do’s and don’ts in regards to setting up a local navigation network. We want people to form local navigation networks for their own personal means, but reflect our mission and the values of the overall organization,” she told The Oncology Nurse-APN/PA.
Tricia Strusowski, MS, RN, Manager, Oncology Solutions, Decatur, GA, and Cheryl Bellomo, MSN, RN, OCN, ONN-CG, Oncology Nurse Navigator, Intermountain Southwest Cancer Clinic, Valley View Medical Center, Cedar City, UT, provided attendees with an overview of the 35 AONN+ Standardized Navigation Metrics, along with useful implementation tools.
“After introducing the metrics [at the AONN+ 2016 annual meeting], people said, ‘these are great, but we don’t know how to implement them,’” said Ms Strusowski. The session delved into the logistics of implementing the metrics, followed by an open discussion in which navigators learned implementation tips from one another.
Nancy Sayegh-Rooney, RN, Lung Nurse Navigator, Richmond University Medical Center, Staten Island, NY, delivered an informative and entertaining presentation on her smoking cessation program in New York. She offered honest insight about what does and does not work in these challenging and often frustrating programs, and encouraged open discourse around the topic.
Jennifer Bires, MSW, LICSW, OSW-C, Clinical Social Worker, The George Washington Medical Faculty Associates, Washington, DC, discussed role delineation in the field of navigation, underlining its impact on the health system and patient outcomes.
Melanoma oncologist Morganna Freeman, DO, FACP, Associate Director, Melanoma and Cutaneous Oncology Program, The Angeles Clinic and Research Institute, Los Angeles, CA, tackled the topical subject of immunotherapy. She presented the scientific basis and promising data surrounding this emerging class of drugs before discussing what patients need to know. A lot of hope surrounds this topic for patients and their families, and she offered insight on approaching the subject of immunotherapy and conducting conversations with patients in a knowledgeable and sensitive manner.
Barbara Dearmon, BS, CTR, President, National Cancer Registrars Association, Alexandria, VA, discussed the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer’s standards and best practices, and provided attendees with guidance on achieving and maintaining those standards. AONN+ Co-Founder and Program Director Lillie Shockney, RN, BS, MAS, ONN-CG, discussed “onco-politics,” and the dangers of operating with a “silo mentality” in healthcare. She explained its negative effects on patient care and physical outcomes, and delved into tips for overcoming it.
Clara Lambert, BBA, Oncology Financial Navigator, Munson Medical Center, Davenport University, Traverse City, MI, spoke about the serious, negative impacts of financial toxicity, an increasingly common complication of a cancer diagnosis. She elaborated on the benefits of insurance education and becoming a patient advocate, and underlined the importance of staying current on political topics pertaining to healthcare.
Linda Burhansstipanov, MSPH, DrPH, Director, Native American Cancer Initiatives, Pine, CO, discussed the art of community-based patient navigation, and the ins and outs of coordinating care in diverse patient populations.
“At many meetings, the leadership team is not approachable. But we try to get out and mingle with the members that are in attendance and get honest feedback. I tell people, ‘It’s your organization. You just have to give us the ideas and let us know how you want us to implement them,’” said Ms Gentry.