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Community Health Workers and Patient Navigators

Community health workers and patient navigators (also called care coordinators or health navigators) play an important role on the healthcare team. Community health workers, or outreach workers, work in community settings. They link patients to primary care providers, health information, health screening, financial assistance or transportation.

Patient navigators usually work in a clinic or a hospital. They work closely with patients to reduce the barriers that keep them from getting healthcare. Barriers may be related to low income, transportation, childcare, language or ability to read forms and understand the healthcare system.

The job duties of a patient navigator can vary. Some patient navigators work with patients through the screening and diagnosis phase. These patient navigators may be lay healthcare workers with some college and are shown in the image below as a “Level 1 Patient Navigator.” A “Level 2 Patient Navigator” may work with patients through the treatment phase, into survivorship or health maintenance and end of life. These are usually very experienced patient navigators, nurses or social workers with a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

Navigator Model

Real life: How does one patient navigator interact with the healthcare team?

Patient navigators interact with many members of the healthcare team. Below are some examples of how one Colorado patient navigator, Veronica Hernandez, interacts with members of the healthcare team.

  • When there is a cultural, language or other issue that the doctor should know about, Veronica explains the situation to the doctor. She also translates for doctors and patients during medical appointments.
  • Veronica meets regularly with oncology nurses to discuss specific patients. Nurses let her know when test results come back so she can make a follow-up visit with the patient.
  • Veronica works with administrators to coordinate patient appointments and make sure medical records are available. This helps patients go through the process of diagnosis and treatment as quickly as possible.

Now that you have learned about healthcare team members, let’s see who is on the team for specific chronic diseases.>>>

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