By Alicia Di Rado
Cancer patients are crying out for support, but too few health-care professionals have the high-quality, specialized training to help them.
From right, Marie Jankowski and Terry Irish describe the Department of Supportive Care Medicine’s services to a visitor. (Photo by p.cunningham)
It’s a serious problem across the nation, as the number of cancer survivors mounts — and as researchers call attention to the importance of supportive care services to patients’ outcomes.
City of Hope is poised to fill the gap in supportive care programs, thanks to a five-year, $1.5 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant.
What’s supportive care?
Supportive care services address aspects of the cancer experience often taken for granted. They include services like these:
- Educational and support groups
- Spiritual care or chaplaincy
- Patient navigation
- Clinical social work
- Palliative medicine
“The scientific evidence behind the significance of supportive care for cancer patients has been growing tremendously. Patients and families increasingly expect these kinds of services, and institutions are starting to see their value in a competitive health-care market,” said Matthew J. Loscalzo, L.C.S.W., Liliane Elkins Professor in Supportive Care Programs, executive director of the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center and the project’s principal investigator.
Need for training
Not enough of the professionals who work directly with cancer patients know how to start supportive care programs, keep them going or integrate them with physicians’ care.
Only a few U.S. cancer centers offer integrated supportive care programs.
The team’s survey of 100 health-care professionals at cancer centers and hospitals across the country found this:
- Nearly three quarters of respondents wanted training in how to create supportive care programs backed by scientific evidence.
- Nearly two thirds wanted to learn more about working as a team with oncologists, nurses and other hospital leaders to bring the best supportive care to patients.
“We know people want to offer these services to patients — they just need the tools to start new programs or improve existing programs at their hospitals,” Loscalzo said. “Our workshops will start to fill this need.”
How it works
Health-care professionals will compete to get one of 400 spots in the training program. Faculty members from several successful supportive care programs will lead 10 twice-yearly training workshops for participants.
Participants also will form a network to support each other, participating in an online discussion board and attending monthly conference calls with faculty members during the program and for a year afterward.
Instructors will build on the success of City of Hope’s Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center, Department of Supportive Care Medicine and Department of Nursing Research and Education.
In addition to Loscalzo, program leaders include City of Hope’s Marcia Grant, R.N., D.N.Sc., and Karen Clark, M.S., Paul Jacobsen, Ph.D., of the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute, and William Redd, Ph.D., of Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
NIH grant: #CA160049