Patient Navigation Program

Patient navigators can help families get care at Seattle Children’s if they have limited English proficiency. These questions and answers explain more about what patient navigators do.

  • Patient navigators are part of your child’s healthcare team. Their role is to guide and empower your family so your child gets the care they need at Seattle Children’s.

    Patient navigators make sure you and your child’s doctor understand each other. They also teach you about the healthcare system so you can use the system on your own. This service is free.

  • Patient navigators are for families who have limited English proficiency. You may qualify if at least two of these are true for you: 

    • Your child has complex medical needs and gets care through more than one program or clinic at Seattle Children’s.
    • It is hard for your family to understand your child’s diagnosis or treatment options and advocate for your child. One reason may be that you came to the United States recently and you are not used to the way healthcare works here.
    • Your culture or religion is different from the healthcare culture in a way that affects your child’s care.
    • Your family has missed appointments at Seattle Children’s.
    • Your family is coming to Seattle Children’s from outside King County or is working with International Medical Services. 

    Our program focuses on: 

    • Spanish-speaking families. We have patient navigators who speak Spanish and English.
    • Somali-speaking families. We have patient navigators who speak Somali and English.
    • Arabic-speaking families. We have patient navigators who speak Arabic and English. 

    In special cases, our patient navigators also work with families who speak other languages. For these families, the patient navigator works with an interpreter who speaks the language the family wants to use.

  • These are some of the many things a patient navigator can do: 

    • Help you and the healthcare team communicate. They can be sure you understand your child’s diagnosis and treatment options and the team understands your questions and choices.
    • Teach you practical skills like how to:
      • Schedule or cancel appointments.
      • Use Seattle Children’s toll-free family interpreting line (1-866-583-1527).
      • Fill a prescription.
      • Advocate for your child in the clinic, at the pharmacy, in school and in other settings. Navigators can help you ask questions, speak up with concerns, say when you disagree and take part in making decisions.
      • Arrange transportation.
    • Help coordinate your child’s care.
    • Help you prepare for appointments, care conferences or procedures.
    • Help you fill out forms for your child’s care.
    • Connect you with resources and services at Seattle Children’s (like Social Work and Spiritual Care) and in the community (like transportation options).
    • Explain the healthcare system, how it works and the role of each member of your child’s team.
    • Tell the healthcare team about your culture to help them take care of your child.
  • Our patient navigators provide medical interpretation in the following languages: 

    • Spanish
    • Somali
    • Arabic
    • Cantonese
    • Mandarin
    • Other (with interpreter) 

    They also provide many services that interpreters do not provide, like teaching families about the healthcare system and helping to coordinate a child’s care.

    If your family speaks Spanish, Somali, Arabic, Cantonese or Mandarin: 

    • Your patient navigator will interpret for you during some visits at Seattle Children’s.
    • Your patient navigator may not be at all visits. When your patient navigator is not there, you will have a different interpreter.
    • Even when your patient navigator is there, you may have a different interpreter so the navigator can focus on helping in other ways. 

    Patient navigators use an interpreter when they work with families who do not speak Spanish, Somali, Arabic, Cantonese or Mandarin.

  • Talk with your child’s healthcare team at Seattle Children’s (doctor, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, nurse or social worker). They can ask for a patient navigator for you.

    If a healthcare provider in the community refers you to Seattle Children’s for healthcare, they can also request a patient navigator (PDF).

    When we get the request, a patient navigator will call you. They can also come see you if your child is in the hospital. They will explain the program and ask if you would like their help. You will not have to pay for this service — it is free for families.

  • Patient navigators provide in-depth help that matches a family’s culture. By doing so, patient navigators can help families: 

    • Access high-quality care.
    • Improve their children’s health. 

    Patient navigators are part of our goal to prevent or reduce health inequities.

    Leader in pediatric patient navigation

    Seattle Children’s is the only pediatric hospital in Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho with a patient navigation program for families with complex medical needs and limited English proficiency.

    Since the program began in 2008, our navigators have served about 700 patients and their families. In 2015, we expanded from 3 to 4 navigators, and in 2016 we added 2 more navigators to serve more families in more languages and from more cultures.

    Our patient navigators have a special mix of talents and skills, including: 

    • Deep compassion
    • Broad knowledge of the healthcare system
    • Ability to build trust and understanding between families and the rest of the care team 

    Measureable improvements for children

    Data shows that navigation services help patients at Seattle Children’s get the care they need. For example, after joining the Patient Navigation Program: 

    • Children are less likely to miss appointments.
    • Children are less likely to need a hospital stay (lower inpatient admission rate).
    • Children who are admitted to the hospital do not need to stay as long (lower average length of stay). 

    By helping us provide safe, timely, efficient care, the program promotes healthier children and also reduces costs.

    Focus on empowering families

    Our goal is to teach families the skills they need so they can use the healthcare system on their own with confidence. A detailed checklist guides our work so we know: 

    • When a family is ready to graduate from the Patient Navigation Program
    • When we need to make a plan to overcome some barrier to graduation and help the family succeed