“For many years, the standard cancer treatment paradigm has been doctor-related,” said Michael K. Cochran, M.D., medical director of oncology at Advocate Medical Center and one of the medical directors for Advocate Condell’s new Cancer Institute Resource Center. “We realized over the last several years there is a lot more than treating cancer than just radiation, surgical and oncology. There is diet, exercise, cancer wellness” and more.
The Commission on Cancer (CoC) has mandated that, by 2015, all accredited hospitals must provide survivorship plans to patients completing cancer treatment. Condell's Center is affiliated with the Cancer Wellness Center and the American Cancer Society.
“This [Center] is a nice way to formalize all the things we need, that for years we’ve thought about but was never pulled together.”
The concept of holistic patient care, especially in this arena, was viewed to be so important, Advocate Condell took it from concept to reality within a year – unheard of in hospitals. Even the environment is different now – starting with a large, welcoming lounge filled with comfortable seating. Computers are readily available – loaded with software and resources for patients and family members dealing with their situations from diagnosis through survivorship.
“Cancer and heart disease are the two biggest killers,” said Dr. Cochran. “We are all headed for them.” However, medical strides have increased survivorship.
“We meet with patients and given them tools to help them while they are going through these services,” said oncology nurse navigator for oncology Kathy Hill, RN, MS, LCPC, CBPN-IC.
For those diagnosed with cancer, the new Center provides wigs and prosthetic fittings; exercise programs; nutritional education; lymphedema treatment; support groups; genetic, psychosocial, spiritual and financial counseling; cancer management and prevention resources, and nurse navigators, along with a pleasant space for relaxing and respite in an area that used to be a hospital-based spa.
Patients can valet park their cars at no expense and come right in. The Center is close to the main lobby and easily accessible without having to go too far.
“A library also will be available moving forward,” said Hill, who is one of three oncology “navigators” at Condell. Hill is the oncology navigator who sees any patient with a cancer diagnosis. Monica Rettig, RN, BS, CBPN-IC, is the breast health navigator who confers with patients having a mammography or ultrasound, as well as those once diagnosed with breast cancer, discussing with them what they can expect. Colleen Larsen, RN, BSN, sees patients going through radiation. Erin Czachor, MS, RD, LDN, is the dietitian for the group.
Hill explained, “Erin can discuss the things patients are dealing with like some of the side effects of treatment." Czachor also can help those not having these symptoms but merely want help with diet improvement and meal planning.
“A lot of times, patients come in and get treatments to help them,” said Hill, but they are getting something done to them. [The Center] is something for them! They can get away from being a cancer patient and receive something that is relaxing and restorative, something that can build them up in different ways. Sometimes you just don’t know how to cope with a situation. We help you manage what is happening in a different way.”
“One call makes it happen,” said Dr. Cochran. “Once a patient calls, they will get all the services they need 24/7.”
Open to patients, families, caregivers and the general public, Advocate Condell's Cancer Institute Resource Center can be reached by calling 847-990-2626.