Life After Cancer: How Oncology Nurse Navigators Can Support, Educate Survivors

By Cecilia Brown - November 20, 2023

Oncology nurse navigators (ONNs) are in a “prime position” to provide survivors of cancer with the necessary education to promote participation in survivorship programs, according to a recent study.

A team of researchers from Baptist Health Miami Cancer Institute presented results from the study at the Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators 14th Annual Navigation & Survivorship Conference. They conducted the study to evaluate how ONN-led survivorship patient education and referrals affect the attendance rate of initial survivorship care planning visits following completion of curative treatment.

It was important to conduct the study because survivors of cancer are living longer, with an estimated 20 million survivors of cancer in the United States by 2026. However, survivors are at risk for long-term physical side effects and “may experience depression/anxiety related to fear of recurrence,” the presenters said. Survivors of cancer can benefit from survivorship programs, but participation in these programs “remains low due to various barriers.” ONN-led educational interventions could promote participation in the programs and positive patient outcomes, according to the researchers.

The researchers evaluated the effect of the ONN-led patient and staff education on the number of ONN-initiated survivorship referrals and patient attendance of the first scheduled survivorship program visit. They found that qualifying referrals to survivorship ordered by nurse navigators increased by 244% from baseline and that survivorship consults scheduled after referral by a nurse navigator increased by 261% from baseline. Survivorship visit attendance following a referral by a nurse navigator increased by 156% from baseline.

The researchers outlined study implications, saying that “cancer centers can leverage the nurse navigator role to improve care of cancer survivors in their continuum of care, including survivorship referrals and attendance, thereby improving health outcomes.”

Researchers also noted an increased return on investment related to early identification of recurrence and decreased health costs, as well as an increased value of investment related to patient access to specialty clinics for surveillance and psychosocial support. In addition, the presenters outlined the sustainability of the change, noting that short-term needs included continuous staff and patient survivorship education, as well as referral number monitoring and consultation attendance. A 1-year follow-up will be necessary to determine if survivors attend the recommended annual appointments long-term.


Costa C, Bermudez, N DeLongchamp PM, et al. Beyond “C“: a nurse navigator-led education project to increase survivorship referrals and cancer survivorship attendance. Presented at the Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators 14th Annual Navigation & Survivorship Conference; November 15-19, 2023; San Antonio, Texas.

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