Oncology nurses to help cancer patients navigate their care

(MONCTON) – The provincial government announced today that a team of oncology nurses is in place tasked specifically to help patients navigate the complex system for cancer care.

“Receiving a cancer diagnosis turns a person’s world upside down,” said Health Minister Bruce Fitch. “It is vitally important that they feel supported and safe during their cancer-care journey.”

Through a partnership involving the provincial government and Horizon and Vitalité health networks, eight oncology nurse navigator positions have been created, covering each zone within both health authorities.

“About 5,000 New Brunswickers are diagnosed with cancer every year,” said Fitch. “This is another way we are working to ensure these patients receive help in accessing the resources they need.”

The team of nurses is part of the Cancer Patient Navigation Program. The goal of the program is to create a more collaborative health-care system by connecting patients with services both in the hospital and in the community.

The nurse navigators will be available to help address physical, emotional, and practical concerns that arise. They will provide patients with guidance, education, and resources to help them make informed decisions in the pre-diagnostic and post-treatment phases.

Patients can access services at any point such as:

  • while awaiting referral to a local oncology clinic;
  • entering survivorship but still requiring assistance; or
  • receiving palliative care.

“Cancer patient navigation is a process where a person with a suspicious finding or known cancer is guided through each step in the cancer-care journey,” said Dr. Eshwar Kumar, medical officer with the New Brunswick Cancer Network. “This program is designed to address the demonstrated needs of cancer patients and their families, in the community.”

“Dealing with a life-changing illness can be challenging and stressful. Oncology nurse navigators work with patients and their loved ones to navigate the health-care system to receive support and treatment,” said Greg Doiron, vice-president of clinical operations for Horizon Health Network. “This program is accessible to everyone and will help fill gaps that New Brunswickers with cancer face during their cancer-care journey.”

“Nurse navigators are a valuable asset for our oncology program because they are in charge of supporting and guiding patients and their families but also speeding up diagnosis and management,” said Sharon Smyth-Okana, senior vice-president of client programs and nursing for Vitalité Health Network. “Their work helps us to fulfil our mission of providing the best care at the right time.”

Referral to the Oncology Nurse Navigator program can be initiated as early as a suspicion of cancer is made by any health-care professional.



Clarissa Andersen, communications, Department of Health, clarissa.andersen@gnb.ca.