The ‘411’ for Oncology Patient Care

By Jennifer Walker

Tina Evans founded a national organization for oncology nurse navigators.

When Tina Evans was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001, she wished there was someone to guide her through the complicated treatment process. Now as an oncology nurse navigator, she is doing just that for her patients.

A nurse for 23 years, Evans became an oncology nurse navigator when she developed The Center for Breast Care at Johns Hopkins Medicine’s Howard County General Hospital in 2002. She provides a range of support for her patients—including scheduling appointments with their cancer care team, organizing support groups, and even holding hands during treatment—from diagnosis through treatment and even sometimes after the cancer has gone into remission.

“This gives patients the opportunity to feel that they have a go-to person at any point in time, no matter which physician they are working with, no matter what phase of their cancer treatment they are in,” she explains.

Evans is so passionate about her career that she started a national nursing organization, the National Coalition of Oncology Nurse Navigators (NCONN), to give navigators a space to share information, network, and, in turn, more efficiently and effectively support their patients.

Founded in partnership with four other navigators in January 2008, NCONN has approximately 250 members nationally and in Canada. Members have access to a thriving listserv, where they can seek and offer advice with other navigators, and can attend NCONN’s annual conference, the only event focused solely on developing the nurse navigator’s role.

This level of support is necessary for oncology nurse navigators, who are in an emerging and complex field of nursing for which formal education is not currently available. “We need to convey knowledge to our patients of an entire treatment process,” Evans says. “The reason [NCONN] was founded is to begin to develop that sort of education…for oncology nurse navigators.”

For more information or to become a member of NCONN, visit

Three Essentials When Starting a Successful National Nursing Organization

Thinking of starting a national nursing organization? Tina Evans shares three necessary ingredients that can help make that organization successful.
Passion: Evans and the other four founding members started NCONN with their own money on their own time. For all of them, this was their second job. “Anything of this magnitude requires an enormous amount of passion and faith,” Evans says.

Business Sense and/or Knowledgeable Friends: From the beginning, have some idea of the business aspects of starting an organization like managing finances and marketing, and fill in the gaps with knowledgeable friends. NCONN has received invaluable pro bono support from an attorney who helped with its bylaws and 501(c)3 incorporation, and a web developer who created its website.

Networking Opportunities: Evans says it can be a challenge to market a national nursing organization, but it helps to grab on to opportunities that arise. She has developed relationships with pharmaceutical and medical device companies whose representatives spread the word about NCONN across the country, and has attended national professional meetings to speak and/or staff a conference table.

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