Clients often ask us if we’re patient advocates (the answer is yes). Others ask if we’re patient navigators (the answer is also yes). Then they ask us to clarify the difference.
Patient Advocates are private individuals who help people get information, find good medical providers, handle challenges both in the medical setting and with insurance providers, and obtain support in their communities.
Patient Navigators, on the other hand, typically work within the medical system, and their emphasis is on helping patients get the most of that system from the best sources within it. They are there to guide you through the process with the personnel and resources at hand.
Of course, there can be lots of overlap between the two, and what is provided can vary widely. Furthermore, the professional backgrounds and training of these individuals is also diverse. Many advocates enter the field after dealing with their own medical challenges; others use their professional training and transition from their prior work as nurses and/or social workers. Some navigators are personnel who have gained expertise by working in that system, others are nurses who specialize in a particular aspect of medicine and who complement the care that physicians provide.
What’s really important is not the name of the service or who does what: what matters most is finding someone who can make a medical diagnosis less stressful and more personal. At Pathfinders we focus not so much on what the process is called, but rather on how we can assist you in dealing with your medical challenge so that you can look back on the experience without regret.