Expanding childhood cancer care

Published on June 13th, 2018 by Christina Echegaray.

In the last decade, the number of children with cancer treated at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt has more than doubled, with families from Tennessee and throughout the region coming here for expert specialty cancer care.

This growing number of clinic visits and increased need for chemotherapy infusion treatments places heavy demands on spaces that were designed for an earlier era in treatment. The addition of floors to Children’s Hospital, made possible through community partners and friends who donated to the Growing to New Heights Campaign, is making room for an expanded childhood cancer center, says Debra Friedman, MD, E. Bronson Ingram Professor of Pediatric Oncology and director of the Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology.

The expansion will help create more space for childhood cancer patients, including children receiving inpatient cancer therapy — an average daily need of 26 rooms — who also require oncology nurses with specialized training.

“The drugs we give these children are serious, and oncology nurses have the training and experience to know what to look for when a child isn’t doing well,” says Kelly Newman, RN, who works in the outpatient infusion clinic.

Currently, outpatient infusion happens in one large room, where patients are seated in recliners side by side.

“It’s a crowded space,” says Katharine Wiggins, a parent of two children who have been treated in the clinic. “And it’s difficult when a child has a reaction to treatment. Infusion rooms with privacy would be a great improvement.”

A renovation of hospital and clinic space will provide private infusion rooms and dedicated space for the youngest children and for the teenagers and young adults who have very different needs, Friedman says. It will allow infusion therapies that take longer than normal clinic hours to be conducted in the outpatient setting, without requiring an overnight admission.

“We’re excited about the future of our childhood cancer program and the improvements in care it will bring to our patients,” Friedman says.

– by Leigh MacMillan