Child Health, News Tamar Raucher | 2 years ago

Levine Children’s Hospital Pairs Patients for More Support

This new peer-to-peer program for adolescents and young adults, pairs current and former cancer patients together in hopes that they will experience an additional level of emotional support.

The pediatric oncology team at Levine Children’s Hospital, part of Carolinas HealthCare System, has an exciting new pilot program launching that aims to discover the impact of a support system on the quality of life and coping skills of adolescents and young adults with cancer (the mentees) as well as those who have completed cancer treatment (the mentors). Research by Amii Steele, PhD; Lynnae Schwandt, RN; and Kendall Hankins, RN, – all with Levine Children’s Hospital – shows teens and adolescents between the ages of 13 and 25 prefer a peer-to-peer support system rather than a support group. While support groups have many benefits, they also have their limitations. For example, a support group requires the need to travel back and forth to the hospital, which can be time consuming and taxing on the patient and caregiver. And, sometimes a group setting makes the patient hesitant to open up and talk about his or her feelings. “The mentor support system allows us to reach patients where they are, “says Dr. Steele. “We want to break down as many barriers as possible for kids to get support.” By comparison, the mentor support system allows participants to communicate with each other via cell phone, and they can decide when and where to meet up instead of relying on a set schedule. Mentees are patients currently on active cancer treatment. The mentors have all gone through treatment and have been in remission (cancer free) for six months or more. The physicians and staff at Levine Children’s Hospital will recommend former patients who would embrace being a mentor. “We look for someone who is wanting to give back,” says Dr. Steele. “Survivors often want to do something like this, and this actually helps them grow just as much as their mentee.” The program will last about 12 months, with each mentor and mentee relationship to last the duration of a full year. The hope is to expand this pilot program and continue to offer peer support and mentoring to young adolescents during and after cancer treatment. “This kind of support system is popular in the adult world, but not much has been done yet in pediatrics,” says Dr. Steele. “Our patients tell us that they feel alone and isolated from their peers, so it’s really nice to pair them up with someone who has gone through the treatment and knows the medical team here and can relate to what they are going through.”

For more information on the mentor support system, please contact Dr. Amii Steele by phone at 704-381-9900 or by emailing Amii.Steele@CarolinasHealthCare.org