Training Programs for Patient Navigators

I am frequently asked about patient advocate or navigator training programs. 

Patient navigation/advocacy is a new and emerging field.  It has come about because of the complexity, inefficiency and cost of the current American health care system.    You probably saw from my website ( how I came to be a patient navigator (advocate, medical mentor, cancer coach) as a second career.  You can also get a sense of the services we offer as well as the range of clients with whom we work.

 As an emerging industry, there is no clear definition or standard training to call oneself a navigator or advocate.   There are a handful of people scattered across the United States doing independent navigation in their own communities.  However, we are beginning to organize ourselves.  The National Association of Healthcare Advocacy Consultants ( was launched in August.  I was recently elected as its Vice President and we will hold our inaugural conference November 14-15 in Berkeley, California.

 There are several parts to the “navigator” landscape.

An increasing number of hospitals in the U.S. and Canada employ navigators to help patients manage their hospital stays.  Those hospitals usually require nursing degrees and frequently work with breast cancer patients (because there is funding available from private foundations such as Susan G. Komen).

The American Cancer Society trains navigators in some cities to work with underserved populations.  They get funding, in part, from the NCI program  to train navigators.

The National Institutes of Health is funding several patient navigator pilot projects across the U.S. in underserved and minority areas and trains navigators working in those projects.  A Colorado hospital is one of those projects and they conduct training:   Much of their work is based on the model set by Dr. Harold Freeman in Harlem to develop community-based navigator programs –  They offer training to groups and non-profits seeking to work to narrow disparities in access to cancer care.

I hear often from folks around the country who want to become patient navigators/advocates.   The most comprehensive training program I know of is an online training and certification launched by the University of Miami on September 11, 2009.   It is called the Healthcare Advocacy Certificate Program.   Its courses run between 3 and 8 weeks and follow each other with no break except over the Christmas holidays.  There are 9 courses and the last course ends mid-July.  The total tuition is $4995 for the program (it is not paid by course).  In addition to tuition there are resource books required for each course. The anticipated total book fees is about $300 but can vary based on where the student purchases them.   For complete information,  The point of contact at University of Miami is Carol Wilson at 305-284-6600,

Separately, Sarah Lawrence College offers a Master’s degree in patient advocacy.

I learned recently of training at the University of Wisconsin at Madison for certificates in Consumer Health Advocacy

Most of us who do this work come to it through our own experiences dealing with the health care or elder care system (whether as a patient, caregiver, nurse, social worker, etc.)  There is no specific background or education that is required.  I have found that a passion for helping others, good research, communication, interpersonal and organizational skills as well as the ability to be creative in finding resources and solving problems are what it takes.  Here is a link to a guide published by Trisha Torrey about setting up an advocacy business:

I am currently talking with possible navigators from across the U.S. to try to connect us.  To that end, I have formed a virtual Patient Navigator working group through LinkedIn, the professional social networking site.  Please consider joining our virtual group as we collaborate to build this profession.    All you need to do is go to  set up a profile and then ask to join the Patient Navigator group. 

 Elisabeth Russell,  Founder and President, Patient Navigator LLC

About Elisabeth Schuler

The curator of this blog is Elisabeth Schuler, Founder and President of Patient Navigator, LLC. Her goal is to inform readers about important healthcare topics and teach them to become informed healthcare consumers.
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7 Responses to Training Programs for Patient Navigators

  1. Susie Paulovich,RN,BSN says:

    After almost a year of researching, planning and developing, I am launching, with a partner, a company in the realm of patient advocacy. Our mission, breifly, is to help patients become educated, organized, and empowered in informed-decision-making. I am thrilled at the wealth of information about this developing field. It has long been needed and I am seeing a rapid evolution in the last several months. Any information
    others can offer in the way of business or preparation/continuing education for us would be greatly appreciated. Susie Paulovich

  2. blog says:

    Susie, I’m glad you found us. One important update to this post: the National Association of Healthcare Advocacy Consultants ( just completed its inaugural conference this past weekend, November 14-15. There were many attendees like you who want start providing these services. I encourage you to join NAHAC and be involved from the beginning. One of the things members will get is access to business and professional resources needed for this job.

  3. Sherry Kielman says:

    i am very interested in this program-i was helped by a nurse navigator when my husband was sick with cancer-she helped me immensly-my husband has since passed-but i would love to help someone else if i can-i know how lost you can become at a time like that and how you need someone to help you when you don’t have a clue where to turn-please get back to me-sherry kielman

  4. Denise Pashkowitz says:

    I have been the lead radiation therapist at a very rural and underserved cancer center for the past ten years. I have struggled to bring additional services to our patients who desperately need them. We have succeeded in building a Road to Recovery volunteer system through ACS and now transportation is less of an issue for our patients. After MONTHS of discussions with my hospital administrators, I have finally gotten the green light to begin the implementation of a breast navigator role within our facility. I am sooooo excited over the potential for this position. Only problem, I am lost! I am cross-eyed from the amount of material I have encountered online. I am hoping you can help point me in the right direction. Certification is a MUST. Suggestions???

  5. Ms. Russell, I was excited to find this website. You may be interested in knowing Misericordia University in Dallas, PA, will be offering a Patient Navigator program beginning Fall, 2016. I am the program director. We will be offering both a specialization in Patient Navigation to students pursuing a B.S. in Health Sciences and also a stand-alone, 18 cr. Certificate for external adult learners. A local health care system is actually supporting their employees to pursue this certification. We have set it up in 3 formats to complete the certificate: one academic year, one calendar year or 2 academic year. We will also be proposing a minor in Pt. Navigator this fall to expand the opportunity for all majors at our university to pursue this field. For more information, please visit:

    If you would like to add our program to your list of those offering this field, it would be greatly appreciated.

  6. Susan says:

    I am a Nurse Practitioner . I am very interested in starting my own business. I’d love to talk to you about this. I see such a need for this esp after dealing with multiple family members dealing with cancer and seeing so many people alone and with no help

  7. Hello Susan. Did I reply to you? I am behind on my blog comments. If not, I will send information to your email.

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