I am so glad I participated this year for a couple of reasons- I learned about new resources and networked with inspirational navigators.
In Atlanta I ran into some navigators from Baylor and Sarah Cannon! They were so welcoming and friendly. They invited me to dinner with them on Friday and I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard for so long. I know I will keep in touch with them all.
Speakers who inspired me where the ones who were cancer survivors themselves and Dr Partridge who pioneered his own navigation program to address barriers to care in Alabama and in the Delta. He was so interesting and his honesty was something I really appreciated. He said out loud, to a room full of nurses, that the biggest challenge to Navigators are nurses who are afraid navigators are trying to take their jobs. True story! His answer? "We will not ever run out of sick people--don't worry there's plenty of work to go around!" Ha!
I'm not in a clinical setting and even I feel that tension from some nurses...I can't imagine the politics and tense feelings lay navigators in a hospital setting face. Sigh.
I expected some speakers to address lay navigators. Most sessions were geared to nurses. Even speakers referenced "Nurse Navigators" when they spoke instead of simply saying Navigator or Patient Navigator.
One thing that confused and concerned me was that blurred line between nurse navigators and lay navigators. I felt like the speakers needed to either speak to everyone in the same way and refer to the audience simply as "navigators", or have a better division between nurses and non clinical navigators. Why? Because being in a room of nurses and having all the conversations geared to nurse navigators makes someone like me, or social workers, feel isolated and like outsiders. Every now and then someone would say, as an after thought, "the lay navigator", with a verbal emphasis on "lay". The meeting also should not be a comparison of titles or credentials.
Additionally there were speakers and attendees who had created their own Navigation programs and attained certificates and training at their institutions. But AONN representatives kept mentioning their navigator program and upcoming certification testing. What does that mean for the people who are already certified through another program? I just felt an undercurrent of separation begin to surface and many of us were confused.
The second area of critique I have was about the lung cancer session. The speaker, who was not a scientist or lung specialist, spoke about genetic testing, targeted therapies and the value of treatments. I know several of the things she talked about were not exactly accurate or a complete picture of the disease. There should have been an expert talking about many of the things she was trying to cover. She was pragmatic and negative in alot of what she spoke about. She also provided some incorrect resource listings for lung cancer and talked so long and so fast that there wasn't time for questions. Why did she do a full 101 on NSCLC and genetic testing? An expert/oncologist should have talked about those things for accuracy. Her presentation should have been about her experience as a Navigator for lung and that daily process and helpful tips and resources.
It didnt look like she took the time to verify some of her resources.
Overall though I think AONN was very well pulled together with ample opportunity for learning and networking. I also think the meals with exhibitors gave them alot of exposure. Depending on cost, I think it would be a great place for us to exhibit next year. I also loved hearing the keynote on Saturday from Dan Shapiro. What an incredibly funny story teller ! He inspired us, made us laugh and made us cry. He was my favorite!
On the heals of the San Diego conference I was at last week and not having had a day off in over 3 weeks, I'm totally running on fumes. I'm exhausted. I'm happy to be heading home tomorrow having met new navigators, forged new relationships and increased my knowledge and network base to aid in our support of our LUNGevity lung cancer community.
I'm convinced the majority of navigators work from their huge hearts, and that is #HOPEtastic !