The Role of the Oncology Nurse Navigator in Distress Management of Adult Inpatients With Cancer: A Retrospective Study

Jay Swanson

Lisa Koch

navigation, nurse navigator, distress, psychosocial distress, nurse role
ONF 2009, 37(1), 69-76. DOI: 10.1188/10.ONF.69-76

Purpose/Objectives: To determine whether the oncology nurse navigator (ONN) role as an intervention decreases the distress of adult inpatients with cancer.

Design: Retrospective chart review was used to collect information about patient distress scores at admission and discharge. Scores were compared to determine whether the ONN role is effective in lowering patients' distress levels.

Setting: 261-bed regional medical center in the midwestern United States.

Sample: Convenience sample of 55 inpatients with diagnoses of cancer.

Methods: Nurses asked patients with cancer to rate their distress daily during their stays. Correlation studies and twotailed t tests were used to assess the relationship between the change in distress and the ONN intervention.

Main Research Variables: Distress scores of patients seen by the ONN versus distress scores of patients not seen by the ONN.

Findings: Patients seen by the ONN tended to have lower distress scores on dismissal (p = 0.1046). The difference was clinically significant to warrant providing an ONN for patient distress. ONN visits have a statistically significant effect on distress scores of inpatients 65 years of age or younger (p = 0.044) and those from rural settings (p = 0.045).

Conclusions: An ONN can lower patients' cancer-related distress scores. Other research has shown that ONNs can help increase patient satisfaction; this research shows that the satisfaction may be related to a decrease in distress and increase in overall quality of life.

Implications for Nursing: Patients experience high distress levels that can interfere with treatment compliance. This research shows that patients benefit from having an ONN to answer their questions and provide them with education about their diseases.

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