Dear Navigators, Social Workers, Administrators, and Clinical Staff,
The Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators (AONN+) has heard from many of its members working on the front lines of cancer care about the impact of COVID-19 on their practice. I can tell you, there are numerous parallels in our navigation experiences from across the nation. More and more, navigators are supporting patients via phone. When feasible, surgeries are being delayed. No visitors are permitted in hospitals. Many offices are limiting the number of caregivers at office visits. Tumor boards are being conducted via Zoom. Many of you have expressed how much you miss face-to-face interactions with patients, caregivers, and, if working remotely, your coworkers. All of this equates to redefining how we practice, and it requires adapting to a new normal.
However difficult it has been for us to adapt to this new normal, I understand that patients are highly receptive and appreciative of our efforts to keep them healthy in this unprecedented time. Along with the fear and anxiety that comes with a cancer diagnosis, COVID-19 has created additional fears and new barriers to care for patients and their caregivers. Sheltering in place has prevented families and friends from providing the level of support they may have normally provided. Patients may have increased anxiety and need your reassurance that they will still receive impeccable care. Reassuring patients, lowering anxiety, and removing barriers to care are skills you possess by virtue of your training as a navigator. Although you are adapting to providing care from new environments or in novel ways, your navigation skills are more important than ever before. We recognize and admire your dedication to patients and encourage you to keep up the amazing work! Your ability to adapt is impressive!
AONN+ has adapted, too. Last month, we hosted our first fully virtual conference. We are hosting a series of Facebook Live events to share resources and support with members of the cancer care community. We developed a COVID-19 Navigator Toolkit on our site that provides invaluable resources to assist nurse and patient navigators during the pandemic. We will continue to adapt to best assist and support our navigation community. We are here to help. Connect with us at www.AONNonline.org or on our Facebook page (@OncNav).
Lillie D. Shockney, RN, BS, MAS, HON-ONN-CG
University Distinguished Service Professor of Breast Cancer; Professor of Surgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; Co-Developer
of Work Stride: Managing Cancer at Work, Johns Hopkins Healthcare Solutions; Co-Founder of AONN+.