Day in the Life of a Resource Navigator: Reaching Cancer Patients With Financial Support
Today marks the beginning of Social Work Month, meaning it’s the perfect time to show our team of social workers some love. We call them Resource Navigators, and they link patients to resources that can reduce costs associated with cancer treatment.
As a Resource Navigator, I have the pleasure of coming to a job I love every single day. I work with families and social workers across the country, developing relationships through our email and phone interactions. In the brief time I work with a family to understand their financial needs and determine which aspects of Family Reach’s Financial Treatment Program they could benefit from, I am honored to be a small part of their journey.
Meet the Resource Navigators
Between our Boston and New Jersey offices, Family Reach has five Resource Navigators. We all have backgrounds in social work, and our advanced social work degrees are from across the country. As a team, we represent Rutgers, Boston University, Case Western Reserve, University of Denver, and Boston College.
Working closely together when we’re over 200 miles apart has its challenges, but the power of technology keeps the team connected, and we share work-related stories, plus learn about each other outside of our Family Reach roles.
More than social work expertise, for instance, this team brings a number of other talents to the table. Did you know that Stephanie is a world-class chef? Her specialty is wontons, but we’ll take anything she’s willing to share. Or that Anya has been to India four times … but hasn’t visited the Taj Mahal?
What do we do?
Often found talking on the phone or going through our inboxes, Resource Navigators communicate directly with patients, caregivers, and oncology care teams to assess each family’s unique needs and match them to Family Reach programs and other external resources.
Each Navigator has a “caseload” of families they’re working with at any given time. This ensures each family applying for the Financial Treatment Program has a dedicated staff member they can connect with to share information or get answers to questions.
We also have specific hospitals they work with, for the same reason. These “partner” hospitals have social workers trained to make direct referrals to Family Reach, and they work with the same Navigator for each application to keep up the consistency.
The list of Navigator responsibilities includes a number of projects in addition to caseloads. Recently, we updated our inquiry form to better serve patients and families applying for Family Reach support. A cross-departmental team that included Navigators made this critical change happen. We’re also working with the marketing team to share our perspectives on the blog – like this one!
As a Resource Navigator, I have the pleasure of
coming to a job I love
every single day.
What is a day like in our world?
Starting with phone and email messages, every morning begins with catching up on what has come through the day before. Whether we’re just starting to meet a family or in the process of gathering bills to finish a grant, there is a lot of communication that needs to be done. Family Reach works with families nationwide, so Resource Navigators quickly learn to balance time zones and hectic schedules with their own.
What’s more, we also balance the emotional highs and lows of the job. There’s no denying that it can be really difficult work, especially considering every family comes to Family Reach when they’re going through the hardest times of their lives. However, the Financial Treatment Program can spark a great deal of joy by providing some relief to families during cancer treatment. The Navigators also get to hear from families who are meeting exciting milestones, such as the end of chemotherapy or no evidence of disease, and we’re honored to be part of the celebrations.
There may also be meetings on the calendar, as Resource Navigators connect on a weekly basis to discuss family needs and learn from each other’s experiences. The entire Programs team has weekly meetings too, where we get status updates on what’s happening with other staff members.
Celebrating “Social Workers: Generations Strong”
The 2020 theme for Social Work Month is “Generations Strong.” At nearly 25 years old, Family Reach doesn’t have the generations that the social work industry as a whole does – considering the field has existed since 1898, they’ve got a bit of a lead on us.
However, we have grown through many “generations” of Family Reach, starting with just one social worker to today’s team of five Navigators. Our first social worker, Rosemary Pfreundschuh, joined the team in 2009. She was then followed by Jennifer Lorencovitz in 2012, who is now our Senior Manager of Resource Navigation. Most recently in 2018, a generous gift from AbbVie allowed Family Reach to fill out the team.
Family Reach’s growth has been incredible, and the Resource Navigators have had a great impact on the work we do. Now with five Navigators, we are able to serve more families than ever before. As Family Reach continues to evolve, the Navigators ensure that we can keep pace with the number of families who come to us, connecting them to critical financial support as soon as possible.
Devin Traxler is a social worker in our New Jersey office. She is one of our Resource Navigators and enjoys working with families and social workers across the country. When she’s at home, she likes to hang out with her cat and two dogs, and work on art projects.
Attendees learned from expert speakers about how social determinants affect cancer patients and discussed strategies to address inequities.
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In honor of her retirement from our Board of Directors, we spoke to Andrea about her thoughts on the organization she helped create.