Development of a Survivorship Celebration Benefits Cancer Survivors and Cancer Center Staff

August 2012 Vol 3, No 4
Kathleen Bryte, MSN, RN, OCN
The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Elizabeth Shumaker, MSN, RN
The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Background: Recognizing the value of psychological support throughout cancer survivorship and implementing worthwhile programs to address psychosocial needs of cancer survivors are increasingly important considerations in the development of a cancer survivorship program. It is also vital that staff members who care for cancer survivors not only understand the importance of survivorship care but actively participate. In the process of establishing a comprehensive cancer survivorship program at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Cancer Center at UMPC Passavant, it was determined that a survivorship celebration would be a beneficial program for cancer survivors and for the staff as well.

Objective: The objective was to develop a celebration of survivorship that demonstrated support of survivors in ways other than the clinical aspects of their care: to celebrate their life. Multiple types of psychological support were anticipated for the event—learning coping strategies, sharing stories and experiences, and direct contact.

Methods: A committee of 25 staff volunteers from the Cancer Center, with 2 registered nurse co-chairs, met monthly over 8 months to plan every facet of the event. Subcommittees were formed to handle larger aspects, such as making a survivorship DVD with cancer survivors and physicians to be shown at the event, with a copy given to each survivor, and construction of a 3-dimensional “Tree of Life” to which attendees could add a leaf with their name and message. A mailing was sent to all cancer patients seen in the Cancer Center (about 2000) inviting each of them and a guest to attend “A Celebration of Survivorship: Living in Full Bloom.” A national speaker/cancer survivor was the keynote presenter. Funds for the event were provided by grants, institutional support, and a fundraiser by the staff.

Results: A total of 270 attended the event, including 40 staff members and 131 cancer survivors. Of the 2000 invitees, 5.4% (108) accepted the invitation; 95% (103) of invitees brought a guest, 18.5% (20) of whom were also cancer survivors. Follow-up evaluations by attendees and staff revealed overwhelmingly positive responses regarding psychological support.

Conclusions: Not only did the cancer survivors and staff find support at the event, but there were also unexpected positive staff outcomes—the event planning meetings were dynamic with complete member involvement and the celebration served as an affirmation of the importance of why they do what they do. Thus, enhanced employee engagement became a secondary gain of the event. A celebration of survivorship will continue annually.

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Last modified: November 15, 2022

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