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Ask an Expert: Oncology Nurse Navigators

Ask an Expert: Oncology Nurse Navigators

With SMH Nurse Navigator Kristi Stetson

Welcome to “Ask an Expert,” a Q&A series with Sarasota Memorial’s doctors, nurses, and other health experts, where you can get thorough answers to your health and wellness queries from a local source you can trust. Have a medical- or wellness-related question that you’d like to “Ask an Expert”? Email them to

When faced with a new cancer diagnosis, or potential diagnosis, it’s easy for patients and their loved ones to feel lost—lost in all of the new information, lost in the treatment options, lost in the endless questions you need answered, and lost in trying to cope with the diagnosis, the cancer.
To help patients and their loved ones find their way on the cancer journey, comprehensive cancer-care programs often assign patients a dedicated oncology nurse navigator. These professional, certified nurses serve as personal guides through the challenges—from diagnosis through treatment and survivorship.
To find out more about nurse navigators and how they can help patients, SMH Healthe-Matters Blog spoke with Kristi Stetson, the gastro-intestinal oncology nurse navigator with Sarasota Memorial’s Thrive Integrated Program for Cancer Care. Stetson has been an oncology nurse for 13 years, including five as an ONN.
“My goal is to give patients the best guidance at a stressful and confusing time in their lives,” Stetson explained. “This guidance often reduces anxiety, fear, doubt, and worry as patients and their loved ones are informed about what they can expect throughout the diagnosis, treatment, and cancer survivorship.”


A Q&A with GI Oncology Nurse Navigator Kristi StetsonKristi_stetson_smhONN

1. What is an oncology nurse navigator?
Oncology nurse navigators (ONNs) understand how challenging the cancer journey can be. They specialize in supporting those who are dealing with cancer and serve as the patients’ educators, advocates, and care coordinators. As registered nurses certified in oncology, oncology nurse navigators also are cancer patients’ liaison with the doctor(s) and other clinicians. Their sole mission is to improve the cancer care experience for patients and their loved ones by providing individualized assistance in overcoming healthcare system barriers during the cancer journey.
2. What can patients expect from their oncology nurse navigator?
ONNs play a number of roles in helping patients and families. These include:
  • Explaining the cancer diagnosis, staging, and treatment in a way that patients and families can easily understand, and ensuring that they fully comprehend the information.
  • Identifying and addressing the barriers or obstacles to timely and appropriate cancer care.
  • Helping patients/families cope with physical and emotional needs.
  • Connecting patients with appropriate healthcare and community resources.
  • Offering support during transitions between physician’s offices, clinics, and hospital stays.
  • Collaborating with other members of the multi-disciplinary healthcare team to provide timely diagnosis and treatment.
  • Making sure patients and loved ones have all the information they need to make informed decisions about cancer care and treatment.
3. Who can benefit from having an ONN? Patients with a confirmed cancer diagnosis or a suspicious finding suggestive of cancer can benefit from the expertise and guidance of an oncology nurse navigator, as can their loved ones. It would actually be helpful for anyone looking for more information about cancer care services to speak with an ONN.
At SMH, we have a team of nurse navigators who specialize in different areas of cancer care and can offer individualized assistance in their field. In addition to the oncology nurse navigator, SMH has a survivorship oncology nurse navigator, a breast health navigator, a gastro-intestinal oncology nurse navigator, a lung cancer screening navigator, and an oncology nurse navigator for the Infusion Clinic and Drug Procurement Program.
4. How do I connect with an oncology nurse navigator? The best way to enlist the help of an oncology nurse navigator is to contact the comprehensive cancer care program you’re planning to use for medical care.
For the Sarasota Memorial Thrive cancer program, you can call 941-917-7827. Patients can self-refer for navigation support, or have their physician or other healthcare team member refer them; if the latter, ask the healthcare provider to fax a referral to 941-917-2629.


Posted: Aug 22, 2017,
Comments: 0,
Author: Muss