Relocation for Specialist Treatment for Pediatric Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

Issue: Vol.2, No.2 - January 2003

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  1. Dr Pam McGrath
    B.Soc.Wk, MA, Ph.D

Background: Children and young people diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) required the specialised care of a Pediatric Oncologist and of a tertiary pediatric oncology unit. As such, specialised care is only available in the major metropolitan centres, many families must relocate for long periods to access available treatments.

Objective: The preliminary research available on relocation is restricted to adult haematological patients, and to date, there is no work exploring the impact of relocation on young families where the child is the patient. In order to address this gap in our knowledge, this article presents the findings on the experience of relocation for families coping with a patient diagnosed with pediatric ALL.

Methodology: The findings are from an ongoing longitudinal study following up families referred for specialist treatment for childhood ALL to the Royal Children's Hospital (RCH), Brisbane, Queensland. Phenomenologcial, qualitative research methods have been used at time one (T1) of the three year study.

Results: This study clearly demonstrates that relocation for specialist treatment for childhood ALL is highly stressful for families, disrupts their sense of normalcy and challenges their capacity to cope.

Recommendations: There is a need for increasing support and assistance to families who have to relocate. Suggestions by participants in this study include improved information prior to transfer to the tertiary hospital, community nursing support and a "mentor or liaison person"  to care for the parents during the initial stages of their relocation.

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