Nurse navigators are integral to an oncology patient’s journey through the continuum of care. This relatively new audience presents life science marketers, nurse educators, and sales representatives with a unique opportunity to support patients and the multidisciplinary team (MDT). Do it well, and you and your organization will be seen as a valued partner. Don’t, and you lose a valuable opportunity to stand out from the crowd.
Here are some insights we’ve gained from working with nurse navigators for more than 6 years. We encourage you to use these 3 tips to successfully reach this important audience:
1. Listen. Start by asking what you can do for the nurse navigator—not what she can do for you.
It may be tempting to focus on how a relationship with nurse navigators can help sales, but the best companies take the opposite approach. We asked Lillie Shockney, RN, BS, MAS, cofounder of AONN+, what the best industry partners do. Shockney, who heads the AONN+ leadership council and serves as a program director, didn’t hesitate. “They’re interested in helping nurse navigators do their jobs and help patients. They have no intent of talking about their therapy,” she said. “This builds trust, which later opens the door for other conversations.
2. Learn. Understand the role of the nurse navigator and her specific care setting.
As oncology marketers and sales representatives begin to reach out to the nurse navigator audience, it’s critical to remember that practice settings are incredibly diverse. Some nurse navigators have an office at the institution, while others drive from location to location and consider their briefcase their “office.” Some, like Jeneane Malone, BSN, RN, OCN, a nurse navigator at Banner Health’s McKee Cancer Center in Loveland, Colorado, see all cancer patients receiving active treatment at their center, while others, like Linda Buckley, BSN, RN, CBCN, CN-BN, a former nurse navigator at a breast center in Las Vegas, Nevada, see only patients with breast disease.
A little ethnography can go a long way. Take time for conversations with nurse navigators to find out what their care setting is like, how they fit into the oncology care team, and how they support patients. Understanding a nurse navigator’s daily life will ultimately help you create a meaningful connection with her.
3. Help. Offer something of value that will help the nurse navigator assist patients, the MDT, or the community.
Navigation is still a fairly new role in oncology, so while nurse navigator positions are funded, budgets are extremely limited for items such as patient education materials.
“Unbranded, easy-to-understand education that empowers the patient is very useful,” says Buckley. “Industry partners can also help by supporting educational programs for members of the MDT, including the nurse navigator. My sales representatives helped with our survivorship celebration by arranging for food. They set up booths in an adjacent room so patients were able to meet with them personally. The day was a huge success for everyone.”
Shockney noted that helping nurse navigators leverage co-pay assistance programs for their patients is also enormously important. Malone echoed that sentiment: “The biggest challenge for many of my patients is understanding the financial impact of their treatment. I spend a lot of time helping with this—from understanding what their deductible is to exactly what their insurance will cover. I help patients apply for assistance, something that can be complicated and time consuming.”
To begin communicating effectively with nurse navigators, remember to Listen, Learn, and Help. Find out what help nurse navigators need to support their patients and the MDT. As you build trust, opportunities for conversation about therapies will show up. Nurse navigators do want to understand your products so they can help patients make informed decisions about their care.
Interested in learning more about this audience? Contact us—we’d love to have a conversation!
And, check out our previous posts:
We hope you enjoyed reading our nurse navigator series. Next up: we’ll be talking about who is a part of the multidisciplinary team, why they’re important, and how tailoring education will help you effectively communicate with each team member.