When I think of the word support, I think of a definition “to be propped up” or to “aid and assist”. However, when it comes to cancer care, support is much deeper on a personal,
family and clinical level. Support is more ethereal and is something that is living and breathing in a cancer center. Support comes in many flavors and colors and what is supportive to one person may be incredibly unhelpful to another, so I think it is an art to figure out the right balance of support. As an administrator, I think of support as everything we do for patients to create the optimal patient experience from our environment, to our staffing levels, to our programs.
Essentially, the idea of a “cancer center” is a giant support ecosystem, from the concept of having multidisciplinary teams that engage patients in a decision making process to more traditional support services like social work, psychiatric oncology, genetics counseling, or integrative therapies. Support also comes from every interaction patients and families have in the Cancer Center. The One Hundred Event we have every year recognizes and celebrates the value of this support including kindness, compassion, generosity of spirit, expertise, humanism and more.
Our Patient and Family Advisory Council continually reminds us of the importance of support, particularly at crucial transitions such as when a patient is just diagnosed or when they complete their definitive treatment. Education can be the ultimate form of support and empowerment. The concept of a “cancer orientation” to this amazing place we call the MGH Cancer Center (and all the support services we offer) is something that we continue to reinvent. Creating an orientation is not a difficult task, but creating one that can modulate to the needs of patients and families based on their support needs and desires is definitely challenging, because everyone experiences cancer differently. We are definitely starting to look to the hotel industry at the “concierge” model, or in our world, the “cancierge” model where can better tailor education and support to a patient and families individual needs.
Support isn’t an extra in the Cancer Center, it is the essence of what we do and who we are!