Most of my work here at the LAF focuses on our programs serving adolescents and young adults (AYA). Recently I was lucky enough to meet with some AYA colleagues overseas. The Teenage Cancer Trust (TCT) is the preeminent cancer advocacy organization for young people in the UK. They offer education and support services, but where I think they really shine is in the building of specialized care units in hospitals just for teens and young adults with cancer.
I was able to tour their unit at the University College Hospital as part of my visit. I was struck by TCT’s presence from the moment we walked into the hospital lobby. In addition to seeing directions to the pharmacy, labs, adult and pediatric units there was a listing for the Young People’s Unit- which put a smile on my face. In the US young adults are often lost between the worlds of pediatric and adult services- no one quite sure who is best suited to care for this population and their psychosocial needs, much less who is best suited to treat their wide range of diagnoses. And there in London, a specialized unit, just for them… it’s a beautiful thing.
Touring the unit was an amazing experience. The Teenage Cancer Trust firmly believes that all aspects of their units should be tailored to the tastes and needs of the population they serve. TCT fully underwrites the costs of creating units that meet their high standards. Patient rooms have murals in the entry and bathroom and a wall of magnetic paint allowing inpatients to decorate their rooms with posters, pictures, and other mementos from home. They also feature a plasma tv and dvd player, and the patient lounge houses a well stocked dvd library. Recognizing how important peer support and contact is for young adults, TCT sees that all rooms have a webcam, wireless internet and a wireless keyboard and mouse; allowing patients to stay connected from any position in their room. Speaking of staying connected, the unit also provides education services including a school room, a mentor who works with students and schools to keep patients up to date with their studies, and they provide ipods and patients can download podcasts of class lessons. And on the TCT units it’s not just about pampering patients with electronics, it’s about ensuring they receive the highest standard of specialized care from a staff that understands and is trained in the unique needs of young people.
I left my visit feeling energized and anxious to tell my colleagues in the LIVESTRONG Young Adult Alliance about what I’ve seen, and am eager to continue our work toward standards for adolescents and young adult oncology units in the US.