Jessica’s STORY: Health Literacy


Interviewer: You have had various common and rare diagnosed illness, including breast and uterine cancer. Without having a degree in medicine, did you find that you understood your diagnoses and treatment options when the physicians discussed them with you?

Jessica: When I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer, there were so many medical terms and procedures that I did not understand AT ALL. I had soooo many questions. 

Jessica: And I did not know which health care professionals could answer which question. Was it the surgeon, the oncologist, the nurse, the geneticist? Each had specific knowledge in their area of expertise.

Jessica: I am so fortunate that the health care system, where i was treated, provided me with, what they call a Nurse Navigator, to help me manage the experience.

Jessica: This nurse navigator was imperative to my treatment process to help me to get answers to my abounding questions. I know that many other health care systems DO NOT offer this to their patients due to lack of availability.


Nurse navigators are important to all patients and they have an impact on reducing inequality in medicine. An article, In Focus: Reducing Racial Disparities in Health Care by Confronting Racism, discusses the various layers of this impact. Below is a chart that shows how specialized nurse navigators helped in the completion of cancer treatment.

Another article, Role of the Oncology Nurse Navigator Throughout the Cancer Trajectory, states “Navigation in oncology has demonstrated benefits for people at risk for or diagnosed with cancer. These include a shorter time to diagnosis and start of treatment, increased patient and caregiver knowledge, better adherence to recommended care, and improved quality of life. In addition, benefits to healthcare institutions include cost reductions through reduced rates of emergency department visits and readmission, and adherence to recommended treatment and follow up. The goal of navigation is to reduce cancer morbidity and mortality by eliminating barriers to timely access to cancer care, which may be financial, psychological, social, logistical, or related to communication, language, literacy, and equity of health care delivery (Gordils-Perez et al., 2017; Munoz et al., 2018; National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, 2018; Temucin & Nahcivan, 2020; Yackzan et al., 2019).”

Another article, Cancer treatment is a minefield of bills, meds, and jargon. Patient navigators can help people of color find a path to better care, sheds light on the importance of the nurse navigators.



Barriers to Public Health: Health Literacy