Cancer Nurse Coordinator Initiative

The Cancer Nurse Coordinator Initiative focuses on those people who are most in need of more targeted support, as well as acting as a specialist resource for colleagues and a hub for information-sharing across the multidisciplinary team.

In Budget 2012, funding was announced to recruit 40 full-time cancer nurse coordinators across the country. Since then every DHB has appointed cancer nurse coordinators, with up to 72 specialist nurses working in full and part time roles. A National Nurse Lead provides leadership and support to the workforce.

What does a cancer nurse coordinator do?

People with cancer can deal with up to 28 doctors and even more nurses and other health professionals during their treatment, sometimes from more than one district health board. This can be stressful and confusing. Cancer nurse coordinators provide a single point of contact for people with cancer and their families and whānau who need advocacy, advice and support at any stage of cancer treatment.

The nurse role varies according to the community they look after, but one of their most important functions is to provide the education and information that ensures people get the greatest benefit from their care and treatment.

Do all cancer nurse coordinators have the same role?

People with cancer have diverse needs. The cancer nurse coordinator role will differ with each person and may include:

  • first point of call for people with cancer and their families and whānau
  • providing person-centred care including determining each person’s areas of need
  • acting as an information and education resource for people with cancer and their families and whānau
  • coordinating people’s care as they transfer between services and maintaining communication links to ensure that a person’s care is ordered according to best practice
  • providing expert management and advice on common symptoms like pain, nausea and treatment
  • providing emotional support and guidance
  • streamlining processes and systems so all people with cancer benefit from improved pathways of cancer care.


The Ministry commissioned an independent evaluation of the Cancer Nurse Coordinator initiative.

This final evaluation report showed that the Cancer Nurse Coordinator Initiative has:

  • improved access and timeliness of access to diagnostic and treatment services for patients
  • improved patient experience through diagnosis and initiation of treatment
  • identified areas for improvement in care coordination and the patient pathway.

The evaluation also showed that while the initiative targets those with complex needs, Māori and Pacific people were not accessing the service to expected levels. Identifying and removing barriers that are preventing Māori and Pacific peoples benefitting from more coordinated cancer care is a focus for DHBs as the service and workforce evolves.

Back to top