Orthopedic Patient Advocate, Navigator or Health Advocate
Orthopedic patient navigator plays a major role before, during and after an orthopedic operation. But what is orthopedic? This is the branch of medicine that deals with problems related to bones and the relevant connective tissues. Many orthopedic patients have problems that take quite long to heal. Other types of injuries force patients to completely change their lifestyle and even occupation.
When this happens a patient can despair and some have gone into depression and even contemplated suicide. Partly this is caused by lack of patient’s education about the injury and what will be done to correct it. In this situation a professional who understands this possible reaction and the progression of the condition at hand and possible life changes can greatly help the patient and their families cope with the distressing circumstances. That person is an orthopedic patient navigator.
An orthopedic patient navigator has some knowledge about orthopedic and so can assist the patient understand and cope. Most of them may have a background in the medical field like nursing and other specialties. Non-medics may also become navigators after training and certification with National Association of Healthcare Advocacy Consultants – NAHAC.
The orthopedic patient navigator can be a person employed by the hospital managing the patient or can be one hired by the patient or their family. In the U.S there are many hospitals offering cutting edge orthopedic services and many of them have navigators.
U.S hospitals with orthopedic patient navigators.
· Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital (Downers Grove, Illinois)
· Hoag Orthopedic Institute - Irvine
· Baptist Hospital East (Louisville Ky.)
· Baylor University Medical Center (Dallas)
· Bethesda North Hospital (Cincinnati)
This is only a small list of hospitals offering this service. There are more than 100 facilities in the country where these specialists are found.
More Roles of an Orthopedic Patient Navigator
Some of these roles include:
· Helping the patient navigate the various departments of the hospital complex.
· Spine orthopedic patient navigators specialize in patients with spinal injuries. This group can further include in-patient only nurse navigator, nurse assistant navigators, out-patient nurse navigator teams and a non-clinically trained patient coordinator.
· They offer pre-operation education. This education will include information about the procedure to be done, the recovery period and the post-operative care and rehabilitation. This way the navigator ensures that the transition of care from one specialty to another is a smooth one. For example the transition from the surgical team to that of the rehabilitation team involving physical and maybe occupational therapists.
· They become the link of communication between the hospital and the family during the time the patient is admitted in the hospital.
· They are also an important link between the various specialists and other care givers concerned with the patient. The patient may have other conditions that call for specialists like cardiologists, endocrinologists or even hematologists. In addition to that, the patient may have their primary physician not mention an internist. The orthopedic nurse navigator becomes the link of communication between all these groups.
· Helps to answer the patient’s questions.
· Facilitates all the paperwork regarding the patient’s hospital stay, discharge or even demise. This includes billing, medications, insurance and future visits to hospital.
· The orthopedic navigator will also organize about any special equipment needed at home.
Most hospitals employ orthopedic patient navigators who are initially trained as nurses. These nurses undergo further training as navigators and continue getting trained as technology and patient care change. Their knowledge in medical matters prove useful to the patient care since the family, the hospital staff and more so, the patient are all updated at any one time on the patient’s state and progress of care.
As one surgeon was quoted ‘orthopedic patient navigators are a godsend’.