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Jean B. Sellers, RN, MSN, is the Administrative Clinical Director of the University of North Carolina Cancer Network. She is the recipient of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro School of Nursing Distinguished Alumni award in 2005 and has more than 18 years of experience in oncology nursing leadership. Sellers is also one of the co-founders of the North Carolina Oncology Navigator Association for which she was recently elected President.

Sellers spent the last several years implementing oncology nurse navigation programs in sites across North Carolina. These programs help guide cancer-diagnosed patients through the maze of insurance, medication, appointments, and doctors during their treatment processes. Her discussion on the statewide oncology nurse navigation initiative highlights the significance of these programs: they improve communication between patients, doctors, and caregivers, and collaborate across the medical team on all aspects of cancer care.

Moving Towards Excellence in Oncology Nurse Navigation: A Statewide Initiative

Jean B. Sellers, RN, MSN
UNC Cancer Network

Oncology Nurse Navigation programs are an emerging trend in oncology care that aims to decrease cancer-related disparities, primarily by resolving barriers to care from screening to treatment (Thygesen M. et al, 2011). The core competencies of oncology nurse navigation traditionally include care coordination, patient teaching, identification of barriers to care, providing emotional support, enhancing the resources available before diagnosis, during and after treatment, and extending into survivorship (Robinson-White et al, 2010). The full range of services provided by an oncology nurse navigator varies upon their training, certification and practice setting and population. This service is appreciated by patients and may lead to improved outcomes (Thygesen M. et al, 2011, Dohan & Schrag, 2005). Additionally, patients that receive the benefit of an oncology nurse navigator are more likely to receive timely screening and diagnostic follow-up tests than non-navigated patients (Campbell et al, 2010, Carroll et al, 2010, Pereira-Natale A., et al 2011, Robinson-White et al, 2010, Wells et al, 2008). Read More...

John Murphy is a retired lawyer and lifelong outdoorsman and mountain climber in his beloved Colorado Rockies. He draws on a lifetime of experiences and strength and courage as he finds himself a patient with stage 4 metastatic melanoma facing the hope and uncertainty of experimental therapy. Mountain climbing and cancer are both life-threatening circumstances, demanding courage and hope, and challenging our soul in a way almost unique to human experience. Both involve a conscious choice to move forward into dangerous and uncertain territory, and require a determination to look death in the eye.

John Murphy's reflections remind us of the daily heroism of our patients who are holding tight to the lifeline offered by clinical research. Good climbing, John. All of us are with you on that Knife Edge, waiting for our turn to ascend ... and hoping to be as courageous as you are on the Knife Edge of a clinical trial. For our turn will come.

-- Bruce A. Chabner, MD, Editor-in-Chief, The Oncologist

Adapted from "Reflections on a Knife Edge,” John Murphy & Bruce Chabner, The Oncologist, February 2011, vol. 16 no. 2 257-259.