Cancer Patient Navigator

Patient Navigation Resource Center

Different Professions that May Include Patient Navigation Roles &/or Functions

The Patient Navigator continues working with the patient from community interactions through the door of the clinical setting and in collaboration with members of the health care team within the clinic.


Community or Lay Patient Navigator

Licensed Nurse or Social Work Navigator

Peer Educator or Advisor

Promotores de Salud

Lay Health Advisor

Community Health Worker

What is Included in Each Phase of the Cancer Continuum?


Patient Navigation Roles During Each Phase of the Cancer Continuum


What is a Cancer Patient Navigator?


A cancer patient navigator is an individual trained to help identify and resolve real and perceived barriers to care, enabling patients to adhere to care recommendations and thus improve their cancer outcomes.

  • According to Harold P. Freeman, the founder of the patient navigation model, “patient navigation is a:
    • Patient‐centric healthcare service delivery model
    • Concentrates on the movement of patients along the continuum of medical care
    • Beginning in the community and continuing on through testing, diagnosis, and survivorship to the end of life.”
    • The goal of patient navigation is to improve outcomes in underserved populations by eliminating barriers to a timely cancer diagnosis and treatment in a culturally sensitive manner.

Examples of competencies from the American Cancer Society’s National Navigation Roundtable Domains for Training and Certification Competencies


I. Ethical, cultural, legal, and professional issues
  • Competency: Demonstrate sensitivity and responsiveness to a diverse patient population, including but not limited to respecting confidentiality, organizational rules and regulations, ethical principles and diversity in gender, age, culture, race, ethnicity, religion, abilities, sexual orientation and geography.
II. Client and care team interaction and communication skills
  • Competency: Apply insight and understanding concerning human emotional responses to create and maintain positive interpersonal interactions leading to trust and collaboration between patient/client/family and the healthcare team. Patient safety and satisfaction is a priority.
III. Health Knowledge
  • Competency: Demonstrates breadth of health, the cancer continuum, psychosocial and spiritual knowledge, attitudes and behaviors specific to their PN (clinical/licensed or non-medical licensure) role
IV. Patient Care Coordination
  • Competency: Participates in the development of an evidence-based or promising/best practice patient-centered plan of care, which is inclusive of the client’s personal assessment and health provider/system and community resources. The PN acts as liaison among all team members to advocate for patients in order to optimize health and wellness with the overall focus to improve access to services for all patients. PN conducts patient assessments (needs, goals, self- management, behaviors, strategies for improvement) integrating clients’ personal and cultural values
V. Practice-based learning
  • Competency: Optimizes navigator practice through continual professional development and the assimilation of scientific evidence to continuously improve patient care, based on individual PN gaps in knowledge, skills, attitudes and abilities.
VI. Systems-based Practice
  • Competency: Advocate for quality patient care by acknowledging and monitoring needed (desirable) improvements in systems of care for patients from enhancing community relationships and outreach through end-of-life. This includes Enhancing community relationships, developing skills and knowledge to monitor and evaluate patient care and the effectiveness of the program.
VII. Domain: Communication/Interpersonal Skills
  • Competency: Promote effective communication and interactions with patients in shared decision making based on their needs, goals, strengths, barriers, solutions and resources. Resolution of conflict among patients, family members, community partners and members of the oncology care team is demonstrated in professional and culturally acceptable behaviors.

The attachments below list Patient Navigator competencies from different organizations / sources. None fit every Patient Navigation program's needs (i.e., no one size fits everyone) and Patient Navigation programs need to select the competencies that are the best match for their local program.

  1. Colorado community and clinical staff volunteer to create a list of competencies and identified examples of behaviors that relate to each competency.
  2. George Washington University is a nationally recognized leader on Patient Navigation.
  3. The University of Colorado coordinate the Patient Navigator Training Collaborative.
  4. Colorado Public Health and Environment has identified Patient Navigator Competencies with an introduction clarifying the document.
Patient Navigation Resource Center