Setting Goals for the Navigation Program, Collecting Data, and Measuring Impact

June 2019 Vol 10, No 6
Kendra Barber, MHA, RN, OCN
Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at HCA Gulf Coast
Rachelle Goerke, MSN, BSN, OCN
Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at HealthONE
Whether a navigation program is new or established, it’s important for navigation leaders to come together and identify what they intend to accomplish for their teams and for the patients. Setting goals, collecting data, and measuring impact are 3 ongoing tasks of the leadership team that are reviewed and edited on a predetermined schedule. Establishing a regular cadence allows the navigation program to make the necessary adjustments as the needs of the patients, physicians, and stakeholders in the community may change.

Goal Setting

Establishing goals for a navigation program is critical to its operational success. Goals give navigators and navigation leaders direction to develop their workflow. How are goals determined? Goals are determined by understanding the needs and objectives of your stakeholders—the patient, the physician, and the healthcare facility. How can nurse navigators use their skills and expertise to contribute to the goals of the stakeholders? Established goals should not only benefit the customer, but show value to the organization.

When goal setting, consider the following questions:

  • Who are my stakeholders?
  • What are the goals, vision, mission, and values of my stakeholders?
  • How will my navigation program benefit my stakeholders?
  • How will my navigation program show value to my stakeholders?

Goals should be written in clear and concise statements utilizing the S.M.A.R.T. model (Table).

S.M.A.R.T. goal examples:

  • Improve timeliness to care for breast cancer patients by 5 days by December 31, 2019
  • Increase patient satisfaction to the 75th percentile or greater by December 31, 2019
  • Develop a GYN navigation program workflow by December 31, 2019


Collecting Data

When considering what data to collect, you also need to consider what data you have access to. Choose metrics that will help to communicate and align with the goals of your program. You want to limit the collection of data to the key components that you actually need, and which are useful and available. For example, if your navigation program’s goal is quality improvement of the patient experience, you may want to consider collecting metrics about patient satisfaction or timeliness to treatment.

Ensure that you have a process for data collection. Sometimes data already exist, but you need to gain access to it. Consider working with your Electronic Medical Record IT support, who could help build reports. This will reduce the need for manual data collection. Many health systems have a data analytics team that can build automated reports for you. Gaining access to automated reports is ideal for faster and accurate data collection. However, you may still need to consider other forms of data collection, such as interviews and surveys. Determine when data collection sources are to be kept confidential.

Measuring Impact

As you begin to gather data, you will need to determine how frequently you will present the data based on the story they tell. Some data you can present monthly, but other data have to be presented quarterly or annually to see a trend. Once you determine how often you are going to present data, determining how the data will be presented is equally important. You want to ensure that your audience can quickly look at a display of the data and visually see the story you are telling. Line graphs are great for tracking changes over shorter periods of time and are used frequently, but bar graphs, stacked bar graphs, and area maps can be impactful as well (Figure). Try displaying your data into different graphs to determine the best visual option.


In an effort not to manipulate the results, be careful about eliminating any outliers in your data. Instead, determine if the outliers are data elements that you can explain. If the outliers are changing the assumptions in the data, you may need to take them out. When data are eliminated, a footnote in the presentation is necessary.

Setting goals, collecting data, and measuring impact are all critical components of a navigation program. They become the key drivers in how you tell your program’s story and the impact it has on the patients, physicians, and healthcare facilities. Be sure to take the time to develop a process that is meaningful and impactful. If needed, lean in on other navigation leaders or navigation organizations to provide mentorship, support, and guidance.

Related Articles
Defining the Role of the Oncology Nurse Navigator
Lindsey M. Reed, BSN, RN, OCN, ONN-CG, Kristina Rua, MSN, RN, OCN, ONN-CG
March 2020 Vol 11, No 3
Understanding your role (and setting boundaries) allows you to remain focused on the tenets of oncology navigation—providing compassionate patient-centered care.
Delineating Roles in a Hybrid Nurse and Patient Navigation Model Can Reduce Care Variation
Heather Ciccarelli, MSW, OPN-CG, Valerie P. Csik, MPH, CPPS, Aliya Rogers, RN, BSN, OCN, Kathy Scheid, RDN, OPN-CG, Caryn Vadseth, BSN, RN, OCN, ONN-CG(T)
January 2020 Vol 11, No 1
Navigators from the American Cancer Society review and share their experience with establishing a hybrid approach to oncology navigation.
Utilizing a Gap Analysis to Strengthen the Strategy of Navigation Programs
Veronica Campos, DNP, MSN, RN, NE-BC, OCN, Deidra Hamilton, MSN, RN, OCN, ONN-CG
December 2019 Vol 10, No 12
Wondering how to identify the gaps in your Navigation Program? Read this to find out.
Last modified: August 10, 2023

Subscribe Today!

To sign up for our print publication or e-newsletter, please enter your contact information below.

I'd like to receive:

  • First Name *
    Last Name *
    Profession or Role
    Primary Specialty or Disease State