April 2016 VOL 7, NO 3

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Learning Guide

Oncology Patient Navigator−Certified Generalist: Learning Guides Are Here!

Mandi Pratt-Chapman, MA, Associate Center Director, Patient-Centered Initiatives & Health Equity, GW Cancer Center, Washington, DC 

The Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators (AONN+) is pleased to introduce the Oncology Patient Navigator−Certified Generalist (OPN-CG) credential. This credential is important for anyone providing cancer navigation services who is not a nurse. For nurses, AONN+ is providing the Oncology Nurse Navigator−Certified Generalist (ONN-CG) credential. Certification exams for both credentials will be available to AONN+ members at the 2016 Seventh Annual Navigation & Survivorship Conference in Las Vegas, NV. Specialized certifications by tumor type are also in development.

Multidisciplinary task forces were convened by AONN+ to create the OPN-CG and ONN-CG examinations.1 Members of these task forces will publish learning guides in the coming months to support your continued learning and bolster your knowledge of key areas that will be highlighted on the exams.

At this point, you might be asking yourself, “Why do I need to be certified?”

Certification versus Certificates or Licensure

Cancer center administrators and patients with cancer may feel more comfortable knowing that their navigator is a certified professional. Certification is different from obtaining a certificate for completing a training course, although certificates can be helpful to show continued learning as a navigator.1 In fact, to retain your certification as an ONN-CG or OPN-CG, you will have to show your continued learning about relevant topics going forward. You should take advantage of educational programs that may result in awarding of certificates; just do not confuse certificates with certification.

Certification is also separate from licensure. Regulated by states, licensure is required for clinicians, and may also be required as a condition of reimbursement for professional services. As navigators, you should be licensed if you are providing clinical care as a social worker or nurse. However, you do not need a license to navigate and help patients get through each step of their cancer care journey by reducing barriers to healthcare.

Certification includes a third-party stamp of approval recognizing that you have achieved a certain level of knowledge to perform your role.1

How Do I Become a Certified Navigator?

A passing grade on the ONN-CG or OPN-CG certification exam is the primary requirement for certification. However, there are a few other factors that you should keep in mind:

  • Your AONN+ membership must be kept current; the examinations are free for members in 2016
  • Read and take advantage of the information provided in the AONN+ learning guides
  • If you are a nurse navigator, watch the learning modules at
  • If you are a patient navigator, complete the free George Washington University Cancer Institute’s Oncology Patient Navigator Training—available at—using the enrollment code PNTrain2
  • Sign up for the beta testing for the OPN-CG examination at the AONN+ East Coast Regional Meeting in New Orleans, LA3
  • Document your experience as a nurse or patient navigator by keeping your résumé current, and ask your supervisor for a letter confirming your number of years of experience after you successfully complete the certification exam.

What Is on the OPN-CG Examination?

The OPN-CG certification examination includes questions that assess the participant’s proficiency of the Oncology Patient Navigator Core Competencies. The competencies, by domain, are role of navigation in patient care, knowledge for practice, practice-based learning and improvement, interpersonal and communication skills, interprofessional collaboration, professionalism, personal and professional development, and systems-based practice.4

Code of Ethics

In tandem with the OPN-CG certification process, AONN+ is hosting a Code of Ethics workshop for navigators to begin to develop an ethical practice framework.3 Many professions rely on a Code of Ethics to help professionals respond appropriately when conflicts of interest arise. A Code of Ethics guides professional decision-making, clarifies ethical standards of the profession to the public, and helps professionals focus on providing the best possible patient care. Patient navigators who register for the OPN-CG beta test in New Orleans may indicate their interest in attending the Code of Ethics workshop. A draft of the Code of Ethics will be distributed widely for public comment following the workshop.

If you are interested in participating in the OPN-CG beta exam or the Code of Ethics workshop, contact Deanna Martinez at On behalf of the OPN-CG Task Force, thank you for helping us collectively advance the field of patient navigation by investing in your professional development and continued learning.

Acknowledgements: The AONN+ OPN-CG Task Force includes Katie Bathje, MA, LPPC, Program Director, Kentucky Cancer Consortium, University of Kentucky, Lexington; Monica Dean, Program Manager, Patient Navigator Program, American Cancer Society, Atlanta, GA; Andrea Dwyer, BS, Integration Manager, Colorado Colorectal Screening Program, Regents of the University of Colorado, Denver; Linda Fleisher, PhD, MPH, Assistant Professor, Cancer Prevention & Control, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, PA; Kamilah Konrad, LMSW, Regional Director, Patient Resource Navigation, American Cancer Society; Angela Patterson, Vice President, Georgia Center for Oncology Research and Education, Atlanta; Elizabeth Rohan, PhD, MSW, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA; Christi Sheffield, Director, Virginia Cancer Network, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville; Virginia Vaitones, MSW, OSW-C, Pen Bay Healthcare, Rockport, ME; and Ashley Varner, MSW, MBA, OSW-C, Oncology Social Worker and Manager, Psychosocial Oncology, Anne Arundel Medical Center, Annapolis, MD.


  1. Pratt-Chapman M. Certificate or certification: what’s the difference? Journal of Oncology Navigation & Survivorship. 2015;6;10-12.
  2. The George Washington University (GW) Cancer Institute.GW Cancer Institute’s Online Academy. Accessed March 8, 2016.
  3. Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators. OPN-CG beta examination and code of ethics workshop. Accessed March 8, 2016.
  4. Pratt-Chapman M, Willis A, Masselink L. Core competencies for oncology patient navigators. Journal of Oncology Navigation & Survivorship. 2015;6;16-21.

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