Caring for Care Navigators: Preventing Burnout in our Critical Employees

By Lynne Heitman
Chief People Officer

At Engooden, our number one core value is Patients first, and the people who bring that value to life are the Engooden care navigators, known around the company as our superheroes. Care navigators are on the front lines of our business. Their role is to reach out and speak directly with each of their patients by phone at least once per month. Their objective is to identify care gaps on behalf of the provider and help fill those gaps. Their tools are condition-specific risk assessments, care plans, and an array of resources they can call on to remove barriers to health, both clinical and non-clinical. But it is their approach that makes them superheroes. Engooden care navigators are highly skilled problem solvers who also have the ability to open their hearts to their patients, to be their coach, their advocate, their friend, and through thoughtful, caring, and committed engagement, a trusted confidant. The magic happens within that trusted relationship where patients share the intimate details that create opportunities for effective intervention.

The very traits that make them successful — compassion, empathy, and openness — are also what makes care navigators vulnerable to compassion fatigue, often referred to as “the cost of caring.” A care navigator’s role can be satisfying, stressful, inspiring, and crushing, sometimes all in the same day. They help patients cope not just with illness, but depression, loss, grief, and even domestic violence. It can take a toll.

I was concerned about compassion fatigue almost from the day I arrived at Engooden and committed myself and the company’s resources to making sure our care navigators can care for their patients without compromising their own well-being.

Building a community
Engooden Connects is one of the programs we created to deal with compassion fatigue and isolation. It offers care navigators an opportunity to find release and emotional support through sharing with each other. The voluntary program pairs participants randomly, unless they request otherwise, with a care team partner who understands the gifts and the challenges of the role. The only requirement is that they connect with their partner by phone at least once per week. We rotate partners every eight weeks. Many care navigators have used this program to build a strong support system at work, which can be challenging with an all-remote team. It has been the source of lasting friendships as randomly paired partners have built enduring connections that continue to nourish and sustain them, even as they have gone on to pair with someone new.

Work flexibility
If you ask any care navigator at Engooden what they like best about their role, they will say it’s working directly with patients and touching their lives in ways that are both tangible and deeply satisfying. The second feature many will point to is the opportunity to work from home. Working remotely introduces flexibility, and flexibility can be a great antidote to stress and fatigue. It eliminates commute time that can be reallocated to healthier activities, such as spending time with family. It means they don’t have to take a vacation day to go to the dentist or pick up a sick child at school, and it means when the job gets to be too much, they can take a walk, or do yoga, or have a healing session with their dog. Or cat. We even have a parrot in the Engooden family.

Engooden's care navigators are the beating heart of our company. Their empathy and compassion inspire us daily, and their ability to build deep and lasting relationships with their patients is what makes everything else we do as a company possible. But their job is not easy. We never forget that, and we continually search for ways to support them because the service they provide is essential, and not just to patients. They help physicians have better outcomes with their patients, reduce the cost to payers, and they are leading the way as we build a new standard of care for patients living with chronic disease.

Interested in joining our team? Check out our careers page to learn more.