by Beth Hill
The American Nurses Foundation (ANF) recently named City of Hope Research Specialist Teresa Rojas-Cooley, R.N., B.S.N., in the Department of Nursing Research & Education, a Dorothy Reilly/ANF Scholar. Consequently, Rojas-Cooley received a $5,000 American Nurses Foundation grant to fund a project called "Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM): American Nurses' Knowledge."
The results of Rojas-Cooley’s study will reveal information on the knowledge and attitudes of nurses toward CAM therapies, such as Reiki, therapeutic touch and aromatherapy. The National Cancer Institute’s Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine defines complementary and alternative medicine as any medical system, practice or product that is not considered standard care.
One example of a complementary therapy is aromatherapy, Rojas-Cooley said. According to the National Cancer Institute, aromatherapy – the therapeutic use of essential oils from flowers, herbs or trees – can improve a person’s physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.
Cancer patients sometimes use aromatherapy to help alleviate the stress and anxiety brought on by conventional treatment. They look to other treatments, such as massage or acupuncture, to complement standard medical treatments. Their ultimate goal is to improve their health and quality of life.
Other well-known and respected U.S. cancer centers using CAM to treat patients include Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center in Boston, UCLA Collaborative Centers for Integrative Medicine in Los Angeles, and the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Austin, Texas.
Rojas-Cooley’s new study will follow up a similar project she led last year, which focused on the knowledge and attitudes of direct-care oncology nurses toward complementary and alternative medicine.
"The results showed that oncology nurses in direct patient care did not know much about complementary or alternative medicine but were very interested in learning more if it helped their patients," Rojas-Cooley says. "Many nurses are uncomfortable bringing up the subject if patients seem to know more about it than they do, and the problem is magnified when the nurses are unable to discuss complementary therapies because of negative reactions by their health-care-provider colleagues to their 'out-of-the-box' thinking."
In the new study, researchers will mail a survey to a random sample of 3,000 registered nurses practicing in the United States. Rojas-Cooley hopes to receive responses in the spring prepare an assessment of their learning needs and publish the results by next year. She expects the study to show that nurses must be educated to assist their patients in making informed judgments for complementary and alternative medicine and therapies.
Rojas-Cooley has held various positions at City of Hope for the past eight years. She currently attends California State University, Fullerton, and the University of California, Irvine, studying to become a family nurse practitioner.
The Dorothy Reilly/ANF Scholarship was named for Dorothy Reilly, an internationally known nurse, educator and scholar.