Beyond the Classroom: Master's Program Independent Study
ACLP Bulletin | Spring 2023 | Vol. 41, No. 2
Destiny England, Graduate Student
University of Iowa
During the second semester of my graduate program, I was fortunate enough to help with a support group through Wonders & Worries, a non-profit that provides professional support to children and teens during a parent’s serious illness. The 6-week support group I assisted with was led by two Certified Child Life Specialists, and the primary goal of this group was to help children who had a parent diagnosed with cancer. I quickly became interested in how child life specialists provide psychosocial support and services to children of adult cancer patients. I decided to focus my independent study on the curation of resources for adult cancer patients to assist them in helping their child through the parent’s diagnosis, as well as implementing these resources on our hospital’s website.
The initial phase of my project consisted of evaluating the resources available to patients at The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics through the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center website. During my evaluation, I found that the website had very minimal information available regarding how to help children through an adult’s diagnosis. I compiled a list of what resources were available through the website and compared this to what other hospitals’ websites offered for patients and families. Then, I created an outline of broad topics that could be added to our hospital’s website to provide more information regarding an adult’s cancer diagnosis. Additionally, I met with two patient and family life specialists (both Certified Child Life Specialists) and the Adolescent & Young Adult Cancer Program Coordinator at the University of Iowa to discuss what they felt patients and families needed to help them cope with their loved one having cancer. We reviewed what resources they provided for patients and families and discussed what resources I could find that would help fill in the gaps. Based on the CCLSs’ recommendations and feedback from patients and families, I created a comprehensive list of resources including booklets, handouts, and additional websites that aimed at helping adults learn what children understand about cancer and provided suggestions on how to initiate conversations with children about cancer.
After I had the resource lists developed, the next step was to pull the resources together in a mock website to present to the hospital’s Clinical Cancer Center Operations committee in hopes of getting the information put onto their website. I created the mock website through Wix to give the committee a concrete representation of what this information would look like on the hospital website. I included sections on how to talk to children about cancer, developmental considerations for ages 0-18, links to packets the patient and family life specialists provided to families, additional websites such as Wonders & Worries, and a resource list of children’s books for families to download. Additionally, I worked with the director of the Patient’s Library at the hospital to ensure all of the books were available at the hospital library if a patient or family wanted to check them out during a hospitalization. During my presentation, I emphasized the need for more resources to be readily available to patients and families on the website, and the committee discussed how this information could be marketed to patients and staff. They decided to send my ideas to the marketing team to evaluate. After the marketing team’s evaluation, they plan to implement these resources on the website. Additionally, the information I created will be included in the welcome folder given to newly diagnosed adult patients as an additional resource for these families.