SRF018: Developing a Student-Led Patient Navigator Program for Individuals Experiencing Homelessness

Nicholas Campalans, BS; Umaru Barrie, BS; Thanos Rossopoulos, MD; Alison Liu, MD; Natalie Bonner, MS; Kevin Ma; Brayden Seal; Claire Abijay; Arlen Suarez, MD; Ashlyn Lafferty; Nora Gimpel, MD; Philip Day, PhD; Patti Pagels, MPAS, PA; Kyle Swartz


Context: People experiencing homelessness encounter complicated barriers to medical care while facing greater burdens of disease. Patient navigation improves health outcomes for those with chronic illnesses experiencing homelessness. Additionally, patient navigation as a healthcare trainee promotes self-identification as a change agent. However, opportunities for student engagement in patient navigation for people experiencing homelessness are limited.
Objective: To describe the development of a new student-led patient navigator program (PNP) for patients experiencing homelessness.
Study Design: A PNP that provides navigation services at free in-shelter clinics for people experiencing homelessness was designed using a multi-pronged development structure over a 9-month period. An initial group of students met with community stakeholders to outline primary health-related needs and barriers faced by individuals experiencing homelessness. A mission and vision were then created, from which the following programmatic components were identified: curriculum, navigation system, resource database, quality improvement and research, and marketing and communications. Components were assigned leaders to generate timelines, specific aims, and details of operation and substructure. Recruitment of a dedicated leadership team was accomplished by engaging peer networks via e-mail and in-person meetings. Reporting structures were built to ensure accountability and effective coordination between teams.
Results: By July of 2020, over 40 students and numerous faculty from UT Southwestern Medical School and Health Professions programs were engaged in development of the PNP. A 3-month long curriculum was built and will be open to 32 students starting in fall of 2020. A year-long navigator experience was developed that enables iterative cycles of longitudinal patient navigation, pairing student navigator teams with clients for 3 15-week cycles. An online resource database of over 110 community, social service, and healthcare groups was created. Assessment tools and infrastructure were built to monitor client and learner-related outcomes.
Conclusion: Guided by a robust developmental structure, this program plans to bridge critical gaps in care for individuals experiencing homelessness, link curricular experiences with service-learning opportunities for health professions students, and generate additional insights into the optimization and implementation of this PNP.
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Jack 11/21/2020

terrific project. very exciting. looking forward to hearing more about this as it moves forward. thanks

Nicholas Campalans 11/23/2020

Hi Dr. Westfall, Thank you so much for your interest in this project. We are very excited for our first cohort of student navigators to start this spring, and we will be sure to keep you updated as the project advances!

Bill Phillips 11/23/2020

Great project, well presented. Thanks for sharing it at NAPCRG. Is there a way to get the learners involved with community-based participatory research and planning as the project continues to move forward from its establishment? 

Nicholas Campalans 11/23/2020

Hi Dr. Phillips, Thank you very much for your comments and question! We currently plan to recruit learners this winter to serve as research coordinators for existing and future CBPR projects associated with the PNP. Additionally, learners at our institution can engage in CBPR through a summer-long Community Health Fellowship Program offed by the UTSW Department of Family and Community Medicine. A CBPR overview is not currently included in the navigator curriculum, although I think this would make for a wonderful addition.

Judy Belle Brown

This work is so inspirational!! Thanks for bringing it to NAPCRG!!

Nicholas Campalans 11/23/2020

Hi Dr. Brown, Thank you so much for your kind words!

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