Mumbai: On Tuesday, the first batch of Indonesian students training to become cancer patient navigators in their home country was inducted at the Tata Memorial Center (TMC). The Indonesian government approached TMC after hearing about the success of its program in India.
The center, which has a very heavy patient load and consequently a skewed doctor-patient ratio, has been implementing the Cancer Patient Navigation (CPN) program since 2019 to address this issue. Navigators, called kevatis, help patients and their loved ones manage all their needs while undergoing cancer treatment.
TMC has already formed a partnership with Roche Indonesia and the Government of Indonesia as part of the Department of Atomic Energy, Government of India’s Vishwam Cancer Initiative. It aims to help other developing countries to build capacity, share knowledge and develop skills in cancer care.
Thirty Indonesian students who formed the first group would later work with the Dharmais Cancer Hospital in Jakarta. On completion of the one-year course, they will receive a Diploma in Patient Navigation in Oncology from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).
Speaking during the induction and introducing the program to the new students, TMC Director Dr Rajendra Badue said it was designed by the institute to help stem the high number of patients who drop out as patients and their relatives are overwhelmed with the disease. “We felt the need for people who understand the clinical terms as well as the psycho-social situation of the patients. These people can help with grief counseling, understanding the diagnosis, ensuring patients have access to financial assistance and follow-up reminders with patients,” he said.
The program’s admissions process includes a general knowledge and reasoning test, an EQ test, health care essay writing, and personal interviews to assess the applicant’s suitability. Students then go through a rigorous six-month training to understand clinical terms and processes. Then there is a six-month period in which the candidate is an observer, followed by a one-year internship and a one-year fellowship, before candidates are assigned to work at various cancer hospitals run by the Ministry of Atomic Energy.
“The Kewats have helped tremendously in taking a heavy workload off doctors and nurses and allowing them to focus on clinical duties,” said Nishu Singh Goel, program manager of the patient navigation program. She added that every new patient coming to TMC now first interacts with the kevatas who conduct psycho-social screening and take their history, a job previously done by doctors or nurses. “Navigators don’t blur anyone’s roles, they help everyone use their time with patients more effectively,” she said.
TMC itself has so far produced two batches of kevatis. Kewats have helped more than four million patients in the past three years, which was especially helpful during the pandemic.