The aim of this study was to explore nurse navigators and consumers' experience of partnership. The nurse navigator has recently emerged as an advanced practice role in the care of persons with complex and chronic disease states. Self-care is an important principle in chronic disease models of care, requiring healthcare practitioners to partner with clients in their care. How nurse navigators and consumers [clients and family] experience partnership has not been explored. An interpretive exploratory qualitative approach was used. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with seven nurse navigators working with adults with complex disease states and eleven of their clients. Interviews were analysed using descriptive content analysis. (COREQ checklist Data S1). Five themes about partnership emerged. Three themes from nurse navigators were as follows: establishing and sustaining relationships, nurse-led planning and aligning care with clients' needs. The two consumer themes were as follows: regular contact means access to the health system and nurse presence is valued. The secondary analysis revealed two themes about partnership between the nurse and consumer: establishing relationships require nursing effort to be established and partnerships are person-focused and nurse-led. Partnership begins with a relationship, largely driven by the nurse navigator through regular communication and personal contact that was valued by consumers. The nurse-led partnership reduced opportunities for consumers to learn to manage their treatments, particularly how and when to access services, meaning that self-care may not be fully achieved. Client navigation occurs over long periods, which could lead to the navigators being overwhelmed, raising an issue of sustainability. Nurse navigators establish a client relationship as a foundation for partnership. This partnership needs a focus on promoting client self-care, self-management of treatment, including when and how to access available services, to ensure the sustainability of the nurse navigator model of care. © 2020 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.