What Is a Nurse Navigator?

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Written by Ayana Dunn, BSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
A nurse navigator assists a patient.

A nurse navigator is a nurse who serves as the bridge between patients and the healthcare system. They guide patients through the healthcare process, advocate on patients’ behalf, ensure they understand their disease process, and explain what treatments entail. Learn more about what these nurses do, important skills unique to this role, and more.

What Does a Nurse Navigator Do?

Some examples of nurse navigator tasks include:

  • Scheduling appointments and diagnostic testing.
  • Finding translation services when necessary.
  • Educating patients on their disease and available treatments.
  • Accessing financial resources.
  • Offering emotional support.
  • Providing referrals to social workers, specialists, and other outside services.

Where Does a Nurse Navigator Work?

Nurse navigators can be found in a variety of settings, including:

4 Important Nurse Navigator Skills

Here are some core skills to keep in mind when considering this position.

1. Passion for Advocacy

Consistent patient advocacy is one of the cornerstones of this career path. Many patients are thrust into the healthcare system while processing distressing health changes. On top of that, varying educational and cultural backgrounds can further complicate their experiences. Nurse navigators ensure their patients’ needs and desires are respected by speaking up on behalf of patients who are unable to do so for themselves.

2. Clear Communication

You’ll need stellar communication skills to convey complex healthcare information to your patients, understand what they’re trying to communicate with you, and to relay their needs to other members of their healthcare team. That’s a lot to juggle, but strong communication skills can greatly simplify the process. Even more important, this trait improves your patients’ trust in you and eases their emotional burden.

3. Organizational Skills

There are a lot of pieces to the healthcare puzzle. Scheduling patient appointments, making schedule adjustments to attend appointments, assessing costs, accessing resources to reduce costs, and making changes based on unexpected shifts are only some examples of priorities to be addressed in a single day. In addition, you’ll likely be helping more than one patient. Creating a system to stay organized is necessary to be successful in this career.

4. Emotional Intelligence

A new disease diagnosis can be tough, and sometimes people display difficult behaviors as a result of this emotional process. Sometimes, their frustration can be directed at you. Empathizing with your patients goes a long way in understanding their behaviors, and having compassion for yourself ensures that you’re prioritizing your own needs in addition to theirs. Cultivating emotional intelligence can help you navigate tense moments — and your own emotional responses — with much-needed tact.

How to Become a Nurse Navigator

Obtaining this position takes time and dedication. Follow the steps below to start this valuable career.

1. Complete Nursing School

Gain your foundational knowledge through an approved nursing program to earn a nursing degree from an accredited program — either an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). Nursing school gives you a taste of different specialties and prepares you for the NCLEX-RN.

2. Pass the NCLEX-RN

The NCLEX-RN ensures you comprehend the knowledge required to work as an entry-level nurse. After passing this exam, you can feel confident knowing you have what it takes to succeed as a new grad nurse.

3. Gain Clinical Experience

Working as a nurse is important to your practical knowledge of the healthcare system. Understanding the nature of the system through experience will make your expectations and advice as a navigator more realistic. Consider starting out in one of the following specialties:

Once you gain experience in a relevant specialty, you can polish your nurse navigator resume and cover letter and start applying to jobs.

Nurse Navigator Certification

If you’re interested in becoming an expert by deepening your knowledge of this role, you can obtain a certification. Certification equips you for the job and shows employers your dedication to your career.

Although nurse navigators can be found in any nursing specialty, they’re commonly associated with oncology. Check out this popular nurse navigator certification below:

  • Certified Oncology Navigator: This certification offered by the Academy of Oncology Nurse and Patient Navigators ensures nurse navigators understand their roles, responsibilities, and required knowledge. It’s rooted in evidence-based practice to effectively assist patients undergoing cancer treatment.

Nurse Navigator Salary

The average salary for a nurse navigator in the U.S. is $98,657 per year. Your wage can vary based on your years of experience, location, and the facility in which you work. If you’re open to jobs in other states, you’ll find some of the highest nursing salaries in these locations:

Is Being a Nurse Navigator Right for You?

Interested in this role? It’s time to take the steps to make your goals a reality. Find out how IntelyCare can match you with nursing positions that fit the career path you’re looking for.