Orlando, FL—More than 1000 oncology nurse and patient navigators from across the globe convened in sunny Orlando, November 16-19, 2017, for 4 days of networking and education at the Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators (AONN+) 8th Annual Navigation and Survivorship Conference. AONN+ is the largest national specialty organization dedicated to improving patient care and quality of life by defining, enhancing, and promoting the role of oncology nurse and patient navigators. This particular meeting was all about metrics.
At the 2016 annual conference, the AONN+ Standardized Navigation Metrics were unveiled. These evidence-based, oncology navigation metrics were developed to address gaps in the literature regarding key areas that measure the success of navigation programs. Navigators can use them to demonstrate the sustainability and validity of their navigation programs by measuring patient experience, clinical outcomes, and return on investment. After these metrics were introduced, however, many attendees of the 2016 meeting expressed trepidation about exactly how to implement the metrics.
At the 2017 annual conference, the AONN+ Metrics Subcommittee offered valuable insight on how to better understand and implement the metrics in various types of navigation programs, and shared case studies to provide real-world reference and illustrate specific successes and challenges. The subcommittee also announced plans for a navigation metrics pilot study that will be conducted at 8 pilot sites, which are yet to be chosen. This phase 2 initiative aims to develop a metrics repository and database through which programs can report outcomes, lessons learned, and performance improvement initiatives. The repository will provide a platform through which navigation programs around the country can share research and practice standardized reporting. Perhaps most importantly, it will use data—for the very first time—to demonstrate the effect of navigation.
“What was overwhelming was that, when the pilot study was announced, many people came up and said ‘I want to be one of your test pilot sites.’ We’ve got people out there actively wanting to engage with AONN+, and actively wanting to engage with the metrics,” said Sharon Gentry, RN, MSN, AOCN, CBCN, of the AONN+ Leadership Council. “We’ve got the metrics in place; let’s put them out there and put them to use.”
Another major focus of the meeting was the way navigators fit into the ever-evolving value-based cancer care landscape, and the importance of creating partnerships between oncology patient navigators and oncology/hematology physician practices. Breakout sessions addressed specific navigation-related issues, including immunotherapy, the rapidly changing landscape of genetics and genomics, navigating specific tumor sites, the importance of the survivorship care plan, and palliative and supportive care. Industry-sponsored product theaters highlighted new treatment approaches throughout the meeting.
In addition, the Navigation Certification Exams for nurse and patient navigators—the Oncology Nurse Navigator–Certified Generalist (ONN-CG) exam and the Oncology Patient Navigator–Certified Generalist (OPN-CG) exam—returned this year. These are the industry’s first certifications specifically for navigators, and another round of these exams will be administered at the AONN+ Midyear Conference, May 4-6, 2018, in Boston, MA.
Workshops at the 8th annual conference focused on developing and sustaining navigation programs, best practices for veteran navigators, barriers and challenges to administrative engagement, survivorship, technology, and innovation. Cocktail receptions, networking events, and a special “bedtime stories” session (complete with milk and cookies) fostered heartfelt and meaningful discussions among navigators from all different backgrounds.
Shannon Miller, 7-time Olympic medalist and survivor of ovarian cancer, delivered an inspiring keynote speech in which she shared the story of her rise to Olympic glory, her devastating cancer diagnosis, and her struggle through aggressive cancer treatment. She stressed the importance of the gold-medal mindset—setting goals, learning from mistakes, getting back up after a fall, and always relying on a team.
On the morning of Saturday, November 18, the lights in the conference room dimmed and an announcer’s booming voice introduced the “Superheroes of Navigation,” fully costumed and representing each of the 8 AONN+ Certification Domains for Navigation. Members of AONN+’s Evidence into Practice Committee went all-out to make attendees laugh, and to illustrate the numerous vital roles of the navigator.
The winner of the 2017 Oncology Nurse Excellence (ONE) Award was also announced. Laura Mulderrig, BSN, RN, OCN, a nurse in the clinical research unit at Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, PA, was recognized for her outstanding contributions to patient care. In addition, the winners of the AONN+ annual awards were honored—Cheryl Bellomo, MSN, RN, OCN, ONN-CG, was presented with the AONN+ Ambassador Award; Barbara McHale, RN, BS, OCN, CBCN, ONN-CG, with the AONN+ Outstanding Local Navigator Network Award; Tricia Strusowski, MS, RN, with the AONN+ Outstanding Committee Award for the Evidence into Practice Metrics Subcommittee; and, in recognition of her work toward advancing AONN+ and the navigation profession as a whole, Elaine Sein, RN, BSN, CBCN, with a special AONN+ Lifetime Achievement Award.
On Saturday night, attendees relaxed, danced, and let loose at AONN+’s Heroes of Hope event. Longtime Atlantic City singer, performer, and cancer survivor Melissa Marshall was honored with this year’s award, and the superhero theme prevailed.
An array of original research was presented in poster form this year, and on Sunday, November 19, award winners were announced in each of 9 categories, after which the authors presented their research to the audience.
Oncology nurse and patient navigators left Orlando feeling renewed, inspired, and perhaps a little exhausted, but are already looking forward to the 2018 AONN+ Midyear Conference in Boston, MA, and Ninth Annual Navigation & Survivorship Conference in Dallas, TX.