Listen to a group of teenagers talk and their conversation could cover a gamut of topics from video games and movies to relationships and school. However, at MD Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital, a group of teenagers talk with one goal in mind - to improve the experience for other young patients facing childhood cancer.
This past fall, 18 cancer patients and survivors formed imPACT (Patient Advisory Council for Teens), partnering with hospital staff in the decision-making process and working together on patient care projects.
"Teens want to leave their mark in this world. They want to give back, to help others who come to the Children's Cancer Hospital. Their involvement in this council will allow them to do that," says Lauren Shinn, a child life specialist and imPACT co-facilitator with art teacher Mindy LeBoeuf.
No more oversized hospital gowns
In their first meeting, council members brainstormed a list of things that could help patients cope with their hospital stay.
Their top picks - technology, food, and comfort - have become the platform for their first year's agenda. For example, one idea they brainstormed was for the hospital to provide pediatric-appropriate gowns or clothing for such things as MRI procedures and surgery.
Other initial topics discussed include offering more vegetarian food options and ensuring technology is available to allow young patients to stay digitally connected with friends and family while at the hospital.
Donation helps teens stay connected
Recently, imPACT members received a donation of 18 Pantech Element tablets from AT&T to help improve technology access in the hospital. AT&T representatives came to MD Anderson and presented each council member with a tablet. The tablets will be used in the Patient Tablet Donor program, which lends out tablets and laptops to patients during their stay at the hospital.
"Our vision is to connect people with their world, and we know that these patients often are isolated from their friends and life back home while undergoing treatment," says AT&T's Carlos Ramirez. "We hope that these tablets can help patients stay in touch with their friends, family and loved ones while they're at the hospital."
"As a patient you have a lot of time on your hands," says leukemia survivor and imPACT member Steven Gonzalez. "Having access to the Internet, YouTube and your friends online helps you pass that time and stay connected to the world."
An opportunity to give back
The goal for implementing patient- and family-centered care initiatives is to respond to patients' input and improve the patient experience at MD Anderson. For Gonzalez, it's an opportunity to make a difference.
"What I like best about being on the council is having that feeling that my voice matters and has an impact on future patients."