School Attendance and Childhood Cancer

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Bira, Kimberly
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Purpose: The purpose of this project is to assess recommendations to assist providers and families on the decision of returning to school for pediatric oncology patients.|Background: Pediatric cancer affects over 13,000 children annually. Treatment frequently involves immunosuppressive medications, which complicate the decision of school attendance. Research has found that despite the identified psychosocial benefits to school attendance, pediatric oncologists vary in their opinions during the neutropenic phases of treatment (Sandeberg, Wettergren, Björk, Arvidson, & Johansson, 2013). Currently, there is no standard of care guiding this recommendation. Information regarding current practices of health care professionals is necessary to initiate the development of standards of care for this population.|Sample: The sample included 65 oncology providers from 7 large pediatric research hospitals around the country, all of which were members of the Children’s Oncology Group. The survey was sent to the primary contacts of the author, which was then disseminated through the snowball survey method to the respective departments.|Methods: The design of this study was a 4-week electronic survey. The data was analyzed with descriptive statistics and a report was compiled presenting the findings in comparison to the current literature. Data was disseminated through an educational tool (Appendix E) to the providers who requested the results. The educational tool combines current literature and data from the study in hopes of educating providers on the topic of neutropenic school attendance and recommendations for overcoming obstacles of school avoidance.|Results: The respondents consisted of oncology nurse practitioners (52%), oncologists (40%), and other roles such as RNs or coordinators (8%). The data showed that 70% of providers believed that school attendance depends on the situation for each child while 25.4% believed that school attendance should always be encouraged. The absolute neutrophil count factored into 56% of providers’ recommendation. The majority (58%) stated that providers within their practice generally disagree on the topic of recommendation for school attendance. Return to school teaching was regularly provided by 60% of providers.|Conclusions: Based on the survey results, no universal recommendation for practice exists. Providers, even within the same department, generally disagree on this topic. Further research is required in order to create a clinical practice guideline regarding recommendation for school attendance throughout cancer therapy. This project provided valuable data regarding current provider recommendations and factors influencing those recommendations. This project has helped set the groundwork for future research opportunities.
Copyright is retained by the Author. A non-exclusive distribution right is granted to Creighton University
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