News | Published December 7, 2011

Oncology Care Navigators Help Guide Cancer Patients Through Their Journey

In November, the Pennsylvania Patient Navigator Network held its inaugural symposium in State College. The event brought together navigators, program managers, care coordinators and other patient-navigation professionals from across the state.

"Navigation is a service to help reduce the barriers to timely and coordinated care, and to address health disparities," said Aileen Galley, ACSW, LSW, administrative director of the Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute at Mount Nittany Medical Center. "Research has found that patients who use cancer care navigators during their diagnosis, treatment and survivorship can improve their outcomes, because they are receiving additional support and resources during a very challenging time."

Keynote speakers at the event addressed the role of navigators in oncology clinical trials and the importance of effective communication. Session topics included self-care, using social media, finding and implementing resources for patients, and developing strategies to overcome challenges in this line of work.

Mount Nittany's navigator program was instituted in 2007 after a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Health provided the necessary funding. Understanding the value this service provided, Mount Nittany made the commitment to continue and expand the program once the grant was complete.

The free navigator program can help patients with practical problems, such as transportation, finances, child care, housing, insurance and disability issues, as well as offer emotional support. The program's nurse navigator can provide patients with clinical assistance as well - explaining the side effects of treatment, for example, or sorting out nutrition and home-health needs.

In 2008, Mount Nittany partnered with leaders at Fox Chase Cancer Center and West Penn Allegheny Health System to form the Pennsylvania Patient Navigator Network. Patient navigators from across Pennsylvania can attend quarterly webinars and take advantage of a range of educational tools and resources.

"At Mount Nittany, we want to provide the resources each patient needs as they proceed through diagnosis, treatment and survivorship," said Galley. "Our cancer care navigators can be there to help patients manage their way through each step of their journey."

Community members in need of cancer care navigation can call 814.231.7111 or visit for more information.