What Is a Nurse Navigator and What Do They Do? (With Skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

March 30, 2022

Nurse navigators primarily focus on the clinical aspects of a patient's care in their respective healthcare facilities. Often, they help patients navigate their way to quality and timely care while explaining and responding to questions related to the treatment process. Becoming a nurse navigator requires a certain level of education, skills and experience to do it successfully. In this article, we discuss what a nurse navigator is and review the skills, salary, work environment and other qualifications you can complete and possess to become one.

What is a nurse navigator?

A nurse navigator is a healthcare professional who is a specialized registered personal advocate and can help you navigate a treatment process. They assess emotional, clinical, financial, psychological, spiritual and other patient needs. Nurse navigators answer questions during initial consultations and provide instructions regarding treatment procedures.

Many nurse navigators specialize in oncology to help people through the cancer diagnosis process and schedule individualized care plans. They work with multidisciplinary teams to provide comprehensive services to their patients while reporting and monitoring things like treatment response and other types of progress. Within this specialty, nurse navigators schedule appointments, tests, procedures, and treatments to start and implement a care plan.

Related: What You Need To Know About Nurse Practitioner Programs

What does a nurse navigator do?

Nurse navigators' responsibilities and roles may vary depending on the healthcare or treatment setting and the nurses' level of preparation in their specialty or environment. However, most professionals working in this field advocate for their patients, translating complex medical information into a simple language each can understand. In providing quality care, nurse navigators may perform the following duties:

  • Educate their patients about their conditions, treatments, side effects and prescriptions

  • Provide healthcare resources, such as consultations, testing or treatment options

  • Provide answers to questions and liaise with physicians

  • Address administrative healthcare needs for patients, such as housing, childcare, transportation, prescription costs and finances

  • Provide referrals to appropriate contacts, such as social workers

  • Ensure accessibility to all healthcare documents and information

  • Secure, assess and coordinate quality care services throughout their facility

  • Support effective appointment scheduling, treatment procedures and diagnostic testing

Related: What Does a Registered Nurse Do?

Skills for a nurse navigator

If you have or can develop the following skills and qualities, it may suit you to become a nurse navigator:

Cultural openness

A nurse navigator may be open to learning about different lifestyles and cultures by handling many patients. A patient's cultural experience might differ from the nurse navigator's, but they take time to listen and learn to help all patients feel most comfortable while engaging in treatments and healthcare procedures. They can do this through open discussions with patients, consultations and research.

Commitment to patient confidentiality

Most nurses working in different clinical settings are aware of the importance of maintaining the confidentiality of patient information. However, nurse navigators might require more awareness because of their interactions with many people from different departments. For example, those working with social workers or other consultants outside of healthcare might stay diligent to ensure patient privacy and safety when sharing records and details of a particular case.

Respect for others

Having respect for other individuals might seem natural in healthcare, but the nurse navigator's position requires diligence in this field to show understanding and patience. Nurse navigators can set a precedence of respect for others through achievable expectations and boundaries. For example, nurse navigators may not judge a patient's lifestyle habits or financial circumstances when providing care. Their focus is solely on helping the patient through the current medical situation.

Strong communication

By the nature of the position, nurse navigators interact with many people from different fields, backgrounds and education levels throughout their day. This position requires collaboration with other team members for effective healthcare service delivery. Being able to deliver reliable, responsive and open communication can help them meet their patient's needs.

Dedication to advocacy

A nurse navigator interacts with many patients, educating and guiding them through treatment procedures. Ensuring they accurately interpret medical information to patients and help them access quality treatment for their conditions. Many nurse navigators serve as representatives for their patient's best interests when searching for medical consultations, diagnostics, treatment and recovery from other healthcare professionals.

Multitasking ability

Nurse navigators may perform various roles and responsibilities when providing care to their patients. Learning how to handle several tasks or cases at one time could be beneficial in this role. You may also benefit from enjoying a constant change in your daily routine, as each patient offers a unique set of challenges and rewards.

Related: How To Become a Nurse Care Coordinator

Nurse navigator education requirements

To become a nurse navigator, you must earn a nursing certification through an accredited program. You may have the option of an associate degree or a bachelor's degree, depending on your desired specialty, such as oncology, cardiology or organ transplant. Aspiring nurse navigators must also pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX -RN) registration exam among other requirements to earn a license in your state.

After completing your education and gaining experience, choose your area of specialty as a nurse navigator. You can become certified in your specialty to increase your chances of finding a job opportunity. Increasing your knowledge and experience may help you advance to senior positions in the nursing field.

Nurse navigator work experience requirements

If you are looking to becoming a nurse navigator, you may first need to gain experience in the field before securing a position. Learn how to educate, counsel and help patients during their entire treatment process. Take internship opportunities and on-the-job training to gain extensive knowledge of providing quality nursing services to patients. When creating a resume for a nurse navigator position, you can include this experience, along with your educational qualifications, certifications and relevant skills to find a position as a nurse navigator.

Related: How To Change Your Career To Nursing in Six Steps

Average salary for a nurse navigator

Nurse navigators can find employment in a wide range of healthcare settings, and their salaries may vary according to qualifications, size of the employer and experience. The average salary for a nurse navigator in the U.S. is $63,433 per year. However, advancing your career to senior positions in this field may increase the average salary per year.

Nurse navigator work environment

Most nurse navigators can pursue employment in various healthcare settings, from large, medium-sized to small clinics or training schools. They can travel to patients' homes or other destinations or work in emergency rooms. Most nurse navigators often work in cardiology, oncology and other specialized critical care sectors .

Please note that none of the companies mentioned are affiliated with Indeed.

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