Improving communication with parents of pediatric cancer patients
When pediatric cancer patients have a challenging diagnosis, it’s important for doctors and nurses to discuss treatment options and goals with their parents. A conversation guide and visual aids developed by Karen Moody, M.D., are designed to improve these conversations.
What’s the best way to communicate with parents of pediatric cancer patients who have a particularly challenging diagnosis? Karen Moody, M.D., associate professor of Pediatrics, and colleagues have developed a conversation guide and visual aids designed to help pediatric oncologists and nurses discuss treatment options and goals with parents of children facing a poor prognosis.
“We found that patients had less pain and emotional distress, and parents felt less uncertain about the future and more hopeful when they were completely informed about their treatment options and knew what to expect during treatment,” says Moody, who leads the Pediatric Integrative Medicine and Supportive Care program at MD Anderson.
Team approach helps parents set realistic cancer care goals
The program hosts weekly meetings attended by oncologists, palliative care and cancer pain specialists, child life specialists, integrative medicine and creative arts therapists, ethicists, social work counselors, psychologists, and nurses. This multidisciplinary team helps parents identify their values and those of their child and set realistic goals for care that align with those values.
“Every patient’s needs are different, and we see patients from a variety of backgrounds and cultures,” says Moody. “To ensure each family receives the support they need, it’s necessary for the entire team to be aligned with the family.”
Music therapy, yoga or creating art through MD Anderson’s Arts in Medicine Program takes some children’s minds off treatment. Others may focus on a lifestyle-based approach involving diet and exercise.
“It’s important for families to know there are options for them,” Moody says. “I find that patients feel less anxious when they understand what those options are, and when we can help incorporate specific supportive services into their care.”
It’s important for families to know there are options for them.
A model to help other physicians
The conversation guide, developed by Moody in collaboration with registered nurses Joan Haase, Ph.D., of Indiana University, and Verna Hendricks-Ferguson, Ph.D., of St. Louis University, will soon be tested at MD Anderson and five other hospitals, with support from a National Cancer Institute grant.
The guide was recently pilot-tested with success at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis and Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis.
“We’re hoping our guide will serve as a model for pediatric supportive care programs around the country,” says Moody.
“I envision it being a pocket tool physicians can use to better explain treatment options to patients and their families, and to help them pivot to the appropriate care when needed.”
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