Story appears in the Summer issue of Northern Ontario Medical Journal.
By Laura E. Young
The world has always needed pilots and navigators to steer the stars, cross oceans and find a safe harbour. This September, Cambrian College is adding courses to train “navigators” who will help the broader community maneuver the increasingly complex worlds of health and social services.
Cambrian is launching Ontario’s first-ever graduate certificate program in community and health services navigation (CHSN), as well as a graduate certificate program in health analytics (HAGC).
In supporting the need for a community and health services navigator – a three-semester program − Janice Clarke, the dean of Cambrian’s Schools of Justice, Community Services and General Studies, shares her personal experience and the challenges her family faces in supporting her father’s unique set of health and home-care challenges. He lives in Vancouver.
“It’s incredibly difficult to navigate how we can support him,” she says.
“At what point is he ready to go into assisted living and how do we do that? How do we get him on a list for that?
“A navigator is someone we would work with. They would say, ‘Here’s what you need to do’.”
The health navigator program has been in the works since 2013. It was slightly ahead of its time, so they waited to see what the market would dictate, she says.
“Now we’re seeing these jobs pop up and they’re called navigators. There’s an Aboriginal navigator at the hospital. She’s actually helping to developing some of our courses.”
The position could also be known as care co-ordinator or complex care co-ordinator, she says.
“Community and health service navigation started as an older adult care co-ordinator. We were seeing a real gap in older adult care. With the population aging that would be a good idea for a program,” Clarke says.
Eventually, over time, the college saw a gap to fill. No one else in Ontario was really doing anything that encompassed broad-based, navigator skills, she adds.
As it is a graduate certificate, students must have a degree or a diploma already, primarily in community services, social services, health, or child and youth worker.
“Even justice backgrounds because we know that’s also a complex system for families to navigate.”
As well, students can specialize, she adds. “There still is that ability to specialize with older adults. You can take a stream into gerontology and older adults, or you can take introduction to Indigenous studies.”
In health analytics, students over three semesters will learn the skills necessary to accessing population data to understand the health of a community and to proactively plan for future health=care needs, according to a college news release.
Community and health services navigation and the analytics courses will be offered in the new hyflex system, new to Cambrian this fall. The program is available 100 percent online and 100 percent in-class. Students have the flexibility to move between the two modes as suits their schedules.
“When we did our strategic plan, what came out of that is students and community want really flexible programming. With our new programs, we’re launching as