Patient Navigator

The demand for patient navigators has increased with the inception of the affordable care act. There is a greater need than ever for health care systems to provide quality care in an affordable manner and ensure high levels of patient satisfaction. Patient navigators act as a guide to patients, helping them navigate through the health care system to ensure their healthcare needs are met. If you are compassionate, a good communicator, and interested in working with complex health systems read on to see if a career as a patient navigator is right for you.

What is a Patient Navigator?

A patient navigator is a health professional that focuses on the patient’s needs. The navigator helps guide the patient through the healthcare system and works to overcome obstacles that are in the way of the patient receiving the care and treatment they require. Some of the responsibilities of the patient navigator include:

  • •   Organizing schedules and managing appointments for patients to ensure they receive services in a timely manner
  • •   Facilitating communication between the patient, family members, and healthcare providers to ensure patient satisfaction and quality of care.
  • •   Managing health care records
  • •   Informing the patient on financial aspects of care and linking patient to financial resources as needed.
  • •   Accommodating interpretive language services when needed
  • •   Managing follow up visits and ensuring continuation of care and linkage to community resources
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To be an effect patient navigator you should possess the following characteristics:

  • •   Organized
  • •   Attentive to Detail
  • •   Compassionate
  • •   Ability to follow through
  • •   Excellent communication skills
  • •   Understanding of health care facilities and processes
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The nature of the work for a patient navigator will vary based on the organization and specialty area in which you work. Some of the common day to day activities of the patient navigator involve making appointments and coordinating health care activities of the patient. The patient navigator will help patients identify needs and link patients to appropriate resources and health care personnel. The navigator may be involved with outside entities as well. The patient may have needs to arrange legal counsel, home health care, transportation, or specialty care outside the hospital setting. The patient navigator collaborates with diverse organizations and personnel to ensure the needs of the patient are met. The patient navigator will be involved in educating patients about their care and foster patient understanding of treatment options.

The patient navigator may work in any health care setting. The most common place of employment is the hospital setting. The navigator may specialize in a certain area such as oncology or diabetic care. The patient navigator may work full time or part time and may work 8 or 12 hours shifts. This position usually involves daytime work, but sometimes over night and weekend shifts are expected. Patient navigators may work with patients of all ages, from infants to geriatric populations. The patient navigator also works closely with the health care providers and health care institution.

Education and Training

Professionals come to the position of patient navigator in different ways. There is not a specific education or background requirement to work as a patient navigator. Different facilities will have different requirements to work in this position. Often time’s registered nurses will take on the role of patient navigator. A minimum associate’s degree is required to be a registered nurse along with a passing score on the NCLEX exam and maintenance of state licensure. Social workers also take on the role of patient navigator. A licensed social worker will have a minimum Bachelor’s degree in social work and maintain state licensure. Some facilities will employ patient navigators based solely on their experience in the health care sector with on the job training.

The salary of a patient navigator will vary depending on education, experience, and individual facility policies. The median annual income of a registered nurse according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics was reported at $65, 470 in 2012. The median annual income of a social worker was reported at $44,200. The job outlook for patient navigators is good. More and more health care facilities are expected to employ patient navigators as the affordable care act has created a need to ensure patient satisfaction and quality health care at an affordable cost.


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