Any breast-cancer survivor who completed treatment at least two years ago, has good interpersonal communication skills, can complete the mandatory training and is available to work with a breast-cancer patient as needed for up to six months is eligible to be a peer navigator. The training involves a one-day session followed by monthly two-hour sessions on the requirements and resources needed to be an effective peer navigator.
Being a successful navigator, however, takes more than training.
"Peer navigating is a particular kind of support with COPE at its core," says Lea Spencer, project coordinator for the WeCARE Community-Based Breast Cancer Peer Navigator Program and a cancer survivor.
COPE – the model addressed during training – stands for Creativity, Optimism, Planning and Expert information. It is set of interaction tools focused on problem-solving and coping skills that all navigators are expected to learn, use and share with patients.
"Navigating is more than being someone's buddy," Spencer says. "It's an orderly process with the specific goals of helping someone work through obstacles and use information effectively in dealing with a serious medical condition."
Besides understanding and using COPE, Spencer says the best navigators are those who were strongly proactive during their own treatment. The most motivated also tend to come from one of two camps: survivors who had a lot of support during treatment and want to make sure others do as well, and those who had little or no support and want to make sure no one else has the same experience.
According to Spencer, there is one quality that is key to all effective navigators.
"Most of all, it's very important to be a good listener," she adds. "The training and our team will give navigators everything else it takes to provide the necessary support to a cancer patient."
Anyone interested in becoming a peer navigator can begin the process by calling Spencer at (916) 734-5786 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.