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Cancer patient navigator program a leader featuring volunteers

Scott & White Healthcare Cancer Institute is one of only three centers in the U.S. in a pilot program with the American Cancer Society where volunteers called “patient navigators” help guide newly diagnosed cancer patients through the complicated process to getting treatment.

“This is the first program of its kind in Texas, and one of just three across the country,” said Kevin Francis, clinical social worker in the Glenda Tanner Vasicek Cancer Treatment Center. Francis is the new program’s coordinator at Scott & White. “Navigator programs already exist, and have proved a great benefit for several years, but before now they have all been paid staff positions in cancer centers, and usually limited. With a volunteer program we open it up and link to the community, and bring the strength and trust of caring neighbors, some of which may be cancer survivors themselves.”

The breast cancer program is the first in the cancer center to launch the program at Scott & White. Francis says newly diagnosed cancer patients are in a very stressful and confusing time of their life. Information is presented quickly, and decisions need to be made quickly, and navigators provide support and guidance to this world of cancer and treatment while helping to relieve some of the common fears.

Volunteers will work a couple four-hour shifts each week.

Francis says one of the most personal aspects of being a navigator is being with a patient and reassuring them, helping them not feel alone and overwhelmed. The navigators will help patients work through the decisions that are required at the start of treatment, from help communicating with physician staff, to transportation, diet issues and finding support groups.

Volunteers to work as navigators are being recruited; required is personal experience as a cancer survivor or a “caring heart” for anyone going through the cancer experience. More information is available from Kevin Francis at kdfrancis@swmail.sw.org

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