Sarah Cannon Virtual Breast Cancer Support Group

November 2020 Vol 11, No 11
Marina Marvin, RN
Sarah Cannon, Lone Tree, CO

Background: Since January 2017, the Sarah Cannon Breast Cancer support group has held monthly meetings for breast cancer patients newly diagnosed, on their treatment journey, and for patients in survivorship. This support group is available to all breast cancer patients in the communities and the Denver Metro area. Sky Ridge team members and community partners provide support, compassion, and information during their journey to recovery and beyond. The support group facilitator is a Sarah Cannon breast nurse navigator. Historically, this has been an in-person group at Sky Ridge Medical Center. The average in-person attendance ranges from 5 to 15 women each month. Each quarter, the support group members select a topic of their choice, and a guest speaker presents to the group.

In May 2018, the navigator received feedback from patients who were not able to attend the support group meeting in person. Reasons given included distance and travel time, immunocompromised, fatigue, or unwell from therapies, time of day, and being uncomfortable in a group setting. In June 2018, a call-in conference option was made available. Average call-in attendees for meetings ranged from 1 to 3.

With the impact of COVID-19 in March 2020, and abiding by CDC and the Colorado governor’s guidelines, all in-person meetings were suspended. After discussion with regular support group attendees about their concern of missing in-person support for each other, especially during COVID, virtual meetings were an option to consider. In April 2020, virtual breast cancer support group meetings began. The Sarah Cannon navigator set up recurring monthly virtual meetings and notified all navigated patients who had participated from 2017-2020 of this new option via a secure, blind-copied e-mail.

Outcome: The virtual meetings increased attendance by 200%, averaging 20 to 25 women each month, with further increase in attendance during guest speaker presentations. The prior barriers of in-person attendance were now obsolete, including the women who felt uncomfortable in person at a group meeting. In addition, the support group is now widely available in the community and rural settings.

Impact: This virtual option has opened new doors for more patients to participate. Those who are shy or uncomfortable attending in person now dial in. The facilitator has also observed patients who initially sign on without the camera or microphone on, open up, turn the camera on, and actively participate.

Goal: To continue Sarah Cannon virtual breast cancer support group for 2020. When able to return to in-person meetings at Sky Ridge Medical Center, virtual attendance will continue to be an option for patients who cannot attend for various reasons.

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