Telling Your Story Through Numbers

December 2018 Vol 9, No 12
Kendra Barber, MHA, RN, OCN
Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at HCA Gulf Coast
Rachelle Goerke, MSN, BSN, OCN
Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at HealthONE

As a navigation leader, you may want to start an oncology nurse navigation program, but you may not be sure where to start. Who do you talk to first? What message do you convey? Establishing a successful and effective navigation program can be an overwhelming and complex task. You must first think through the infrastructure of your program and develop the technique of how to tell your program’s story. Telling your story involves identifying key stakeholders, demonstrating your program’s value, and using metrics—the numbers—to effectively communicate and deliver the story.

Identifying Key Stakeholders

Who are your stakeholders? Stakeholders have an interest in the success of your program. The top 3 stakeholders are typically the patients, physicians, and healthcare facility. Nurse navigators are the glue that binds an oncology program together and provide the standardization and consistency required to make a positive impact on patient care. Your key stakeholders play an important role in the financial and resource stability of your program. Demonstrating the value of your program to key stakeholders, when telling your story, will allow you the opportunity to communicate how your program benefits their interests.

Demonstrating Value

The value of navigation for each of your stakeholders is different, but equally important. When communicating to each stakeholder, be sure to highlight areas of value that benefit their roles within patient care (Table 1).

Table 1


Metrics—The Numbers

Telling your story through numbers involves identifying key metrics that are used to demonstrate the value you have described. Essentially, you are measuring the results of your program and providing those data to complement your story (Table 2).

Table 2


Return on Investment

When providing a return on investment (ROI) to one of your stakeholders for a navigation program, consider the number of patients who could be navigated in a given year; the revenue impact of keeping patients in the system through navigation; and the cost of the navigator, as well as materials and equipment needs.


Once you have identified the key metrics that you are going to track for your program, you can start working on building the story around the value and ROI of navigation. In preparation, consider the following questions:

  • What is the story that you are trying to tell?
  • Who is the audience?
  • What are the key points in the data?
  • Is the spending proposal affordable?
  • Can you elicit a response?
  • Is there an ask?

Be aware of the audience. If you are presenting to a chief financial officer, lead with a story about supporting the financial impact. If you are presenting to a chief nursing officer, lead with the quality impact to patients. Whenever possible, consider the impact that a well-placed story could have to strengthen your message.

Data are just numbers on a page until they are strategically placed in a way that can communicate a story. However, be selective with the data you present to ensure they are pertinent and enhance the story. Consider the following in your presentation:

  • Be selective of the data you include or exclude
  • Be objective
  • Use common language
  • Campaign to deliver benefits (not a document to get money)
  • Practice the presentation with someone outside your program
  • Edit, edit, edit

Telling the Story

Be prepared to give an overview of the current state of the navigation program. Communicate any market intelligence that could impact the navigation program. For example, an addition of mammography screening sites will increase the number of patients with breast cancer who will need navigation.

Communicate any potential gaps in the navigation program. Expand on how the items(s) that are being asked for will strategically fill in the gaps and support the goals. In addition, give suggestions for alternative solutions whenever you are able to.

Building the story of a navigation program takes time and adjustment depending on the needs and impact the program could have at your organization. Identification of key stakeholders, demonstrating value, communication, and data help to strengthen the story and the impact.

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Last modified: August 10, 2023

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