Nav-CARE (Navigation-Connecting, Advocating, Resourcing, and Engaging) is a volunteer navigation program that seeks to improve the quality of life of persons in the community living with declining health. While Nav-CARE is an established program that is provided to community members at multiple hospice palliative care organizations across Canada, the growing need for increased palliative care support has contributed to an increased demand for Nav-CARE in more diverse communities. This study, conducted by a team of researchers lead by Dr. Barbara Pesut (UBC-Okanagan), Dr. Wendy Duggleby (University of Alberta), and Dr. Grace Warner (Dalhousie University), sought to understand the factors influencing the feasibility, acceptability, and sustainability of Nav-CARE in different communities, and to understand the impact of Nav-CARE on clients, families, and volunteers.
The Nav-CARE program was implemented in 15 hospice palliative care and community-based organizations serving older persons in rural and urban settings. Over a 1-year period, trained volunteer navigators visited clients in their homes approximately one time every two weeks. Additionally, the research team supported sites by hosting a virtual mentorship session once a month that included time for sites to discuss their experiences with other participants in the study, as well as structured education. The researchers gathered the perspectives of organizational leaders, board members, Nav-CARE volunteers, clients, and family caregivers through semi-structured interviews and questionnaires.
A Snapshot of the Findings
We learned a great deal about what influenced the success of Nav-CARE within an organization, and about the impact of the program on clients, families, and volunteers.
Keys to Organizational Success
Successful implementation of Nav-CARE was related to the organization’s capacity – including having a strong reputation in the community, adequate funding for the program within the organization, and whether there was a current pool of volunteers to work with. Nav-CARE’s feasibility was also determined by the presence of stable and engaged leadership. One research participant noted that “everything flows” from “having consistent leadership right from the start” and an “executive director, coordinator, and volunteers” that “move forward together”. It was also important to have identified a clear target client population who had access to a few, or no existing services in their community and to develop skillful and sensitive messaging to reach this group.
The Impacts on Clients and Families
“I just find her such a caring person. I don’t know how to explain it better than that. She makes me feel better just being around. It is nice to talk to someone about current events or just about silly things that have happened to us. She’s become a friend” – Nav-CARE client
Making a difference in the lives of clients and families is at the heart of Nav-CARE’s purpose. Clients spoke about the connection and social support they received from their volunteer navigator and their deep appreciation for the emotional support from someone outside of their own family. They articulated how important it was to have someone to help them identify and access resources to improve their quality of life, to help them engage in goal setting activities, and to support their ability to be involved in the things that are important to them – all of which increased their awareness of the supports and services available in their community. Positive impacts on the experiences of respite, financial concerns, and interactions with healthcare providers were also noted.
The Impacts on Volunteers
“I feel like I am really helping people and bringing a little ray of sunshine” – Nav-CARE volunteer
Although volunteers are providing a supportive service to others, they also experienced benefits from participating in the program. Making connections with clients, finding enjoyment in developing relationships, and being able to make a difference in the lives of others all contributed to volunteers’ sense of satisfaction. They also told us about how they appreciated the opportunity for ongoing learning.
Where Do We Go from Here?
Findings from this study show that Nav-CARE contributes to the improved quality of life of clients, families, and volunteers. We hope that Nav-CARE will continue to develop and expand in both existing and additional communities. A Nav-CARE volunteer said it best: “I think my favorite part was knowing that this can develop into a bigger picture that’s creating a healthier community”.
To read the full study, click here