Does Nurse Advocacy Really Work for Patients?

hands-379x350Year after year, nurses are voted the most trusted professionals in America.  I think that is, in part, because people know the value of the emotional support, education, care and guidance they get from nurses–and the deep compassion and empathy behind it.  A good nurse can make you feel better even if the treatment doesn’t (like in chemotherapy, which often makes one feel worse).  That effect is magnified when the nurse is not overwhelmed with passing medications, assisting doctors or monitoring a lot of sick people, as we are in the hospital setting.  As nurse advocates, or nurse navigators, we have only one client at a time so it only seems logical that that one person or family would derive tremendous benefit–but it hadn’t been proven until now.

In a recent study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, cancer patients who had access to a nurse navigator did “significantly better” than their counterparts in a control group.  

“Cancer patients who had access to a nurse navigator soon after diagnosis reported feeling that they had better emotional support and were better informed, and they were more involved in their care.”

The nurse navigators averaged 18 contacts with their patients over four months, usually via phone.  It was not surprising that during this time the clients had significantly fewer problems with care, especially psychosocial care, care coordination, and information and felt much better than the group that got only extra education.  The surprise was that when measured at 12 months–eight months after the partnership with the nurse navigator ended–the patients still scored just as high in their progress testing.  The work they did together stuck with the cancer patients long after the test period–the benefit was lasting.

As an iRNPA, this kind of measurement is important to me, but not as important as the comfort and gratitude on the faces, and in the voices, of my clients. They, nor I, require double-blind peer reviewed controlled studies to know that what I do matters to them and that the work we do together is critically important.