This story plays out again and again: Grandma’s in the hospital, and no one seems to know what’s wrong with her or how long she’ll be there. Who needs to be there to make sure she’s adjusting to her stay in the hospital? How does her family prepare to make tough medical decisions? Who arranges care for her when she is ready to come home? Modern healthcare systems are complex. Patients and their families want guidance so that they can find out what’s going on, who to talk to about a loved one’s condition, and what to expect when they move from the hospital back to the home.
This is where the healthcare navigator comes in. The navigator teaches patients and their loved ones about the ins and outs of a complicated medical system. If patients or their families have questions or need to make tough choices during a stressful time, the healthcare system navigator is their guide. A navigator knows how hospitals work and they are trained to help patients and their families cope. The navigator helps people to manage their contact with the medical system with the least amount of stress and delay.
Most navigators are former nurses, but a new generation of navigators is on the rise. These navigators combine their knowledge of the healthcare system with the skills of a social worker. A good navigator will be able to match the patient’s family with the right people—whether it’s a doctor, pharmacist, home-care worker, or nurse—at the right time.