Caring For Your Own:
Our goal is to
and families feel
about caring for
Skills Lab empowers families to be partners in cancer treatment
--Debby Roisen, Nurse Educator
Domenico Colapietro received his first round of chemotherapy while he was in the
hospital recovering from surgery for lung cancer.
The treatment had caused him to lose much of his thick, curly hair and
he already had his prescription for anti-nausea medication.
But the next round -- like most rounds of chemotherapy -- would
be delivered in one of the University of Michigan Comprehensive
Cancer Center's outpatient infusion areas. There would be no nurse
to monitor him once he returned home to Romulus. That's why
Colapietro and his son, Salvatore, and daughter, Angela, were
meeting with a Cancer Center Skills Lab nurse.
As cancer care has advanced, more and more of it can be
delivered on an outpatient basis. While it's a shift that has its
benefits -- both in terms of cost and personal comfort -- it has
required families to learn how to handle a variety of medical
concerns at home.
That's where the Cancer Center's Skills Lab comes in. The Skills
Lab provides one-on-one education to patients and families, who
are often overwhelmed by all the information that comes with a
cancer diagnosis, says Debby Roisen, a nurse educator who heads
the Skills Lab.
"Our goal is to help patients and families feel more comfortable
about caring for themselves at home," Roisen said. "We educate
them so that they feel empowered to be a true partner in their own
The nurses who work in the lab provide patient training on a
variety of home health-care needs, including instruction on how
to handle a continuous chemotherapy pump, how to take care of
intravenous ports, how to give injections and how to monitor blood
The Colapietros are in the Skills Lab for the clinic's best known
service: new infusion training. Louise Rushlow, a Skills
Lab nurse, is explaining what the Colapietros should expect
during chemotherapy treatment. She's offering helpful tips and
advice. And, most importantly, she's teaching them how to distinguish
expected side effects from serious reactions that warrant
Toward the end of their talk, Rushlow pulls out a worksheet
that the Cancer Center offers families to help divvy up the
responsibilities of home health care. Before she finishes explaining
it, the Colapietros begin to laugh.
"We've already got that down!" Salvatore Colapietro says.
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