Background: The unprecedented time of COVID-19 made oncology nurse navigators (ONNs) ever more valuable to our patients. Patients and family members were furloughed from jobs, unable to be with family members during oncologist appointments and hospitalizations, and worried about getting COVID-19 and possibly transmitting it to their loved one with lung cancer. Prior to COVID-19, there were no monetary resources available for patients diagnosed with lung cancer in this navigator’s geographic area. The pandemic, however, made additional sources of funding, both local and nationally, available to lung cancer patients affected financially due to job loss, reduced hours, and housing situations.
Objective: Navigators play a deep role in ensuring patients are connected to financial resources during times of a pandemic like COVID-19.
Methods: Thoracic ONN stayed abreast of resources available to lung cancer patients through networking opportunities. This ONN participated in weekly Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators (AONN+) Facebook Live sessions, AONN+ Facebook communications, and daily Sarah Cannon Navigation communications. The ONN phoned local resources such as the American Cancer Society, SC Thrive, and the local department of aging. National resources such as Cancer Support Community and CancerCare were phoned, and additional resource lists were provided by these organizations to assist cancer patients affected monetarily by COVID-19. The ONN reviewed eligibility criteria for grants, went over them with the patient/family member, and provided them with a phone number to call or phoned in the presence of the patient. The ONN assisted 3 patients in gathering the necessary paperwork required for each grant and faxed it to the fund administrators.
Results: Since March 31, 2020, the thoracic ONN referred 7 patients to the LUNGevity Breathe Easier fund. Three individuals chose not to apply, stating they wanted the money for others who needed it more. Three received financial assistance via CancerCare, who administered the LUNGevity fund money. Three patients were referred to the Team Rubicon COVID-19 emergency fund and received $500 checks to assist with food procurement during the pandemic. One patient was referred to SC Thrive for rental assistance because she was 3 months behind on rent payments; this application is still pending. One patient obtained discount temporary housing through a local partnership with a hotel chain due to her inability to live in her current home because of fear of possibly transmitting COVID-19 to her sister and family. Seven patients were referred to Cancer Support Community; 3 patients chose not to apply, 1 received a $250 debit card, and 3 are still waiting for information on acceptance.
Conclusion: The COVID-19 pandemic provided the thoracic ONN with local and national resources to refer her patients to what normally would not be available. Three patients financially affected by the pandemic each received money and assistance totaling $1000. This ONN successfully advocated and assisted patients experiencing financial difficulties during the pandemic to obtain money.