The reality that millions of children and their families face the ordeal of treating cancer is an unacceptable fact. Children should be free to play with their friends, explore their own talents and passions, and learn about the world around them. They should not have to spend countless hours, days, and weeks in hospital settings. However, it is a fact of life for many.
Observing National Children’s Cancer Awareness Month, we sat down with Mr. Trace Whetzel, Executive Search Consultant at Mission Search, to talk about the need for providing structured patient care for families facing pediatric cancer.
Mr. Whetzel came to Mission Search several years ago after previously serving as the Recruitment and Employment Manager for All Children’s Hospital (now Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital after it was acquired). At Mission Search and at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, he has been responsible for the talent acquisition of pediatric Oncology leaders and nurses.
He started with a degree from the College of Health and Human Performance at the University of Florida, then Mr. Whetzel began a career more on the clinical side before transitioning to recruitment.
A Brief History of Pediatric Cancer Treatment
From a medical standpoint, treating children’s cancer looks very different than treating adults. In the 1950s and 60s, children were treated with the same protocols in radiation therapy and chemotherapy as full-grown adults. Due to a lack of research and federal funding at the time, these children suffered significantly more from the side effects of these treatments, not to mention the psychological and physical toll that cancer pain can bring.
Fortunately, the last half-century has shown enormous progress in the field of pediatric cancer. According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, nearly 80 percent of children diagnosed with cancer survive, compared to less than 10 percent in the 1950s. Increases in federal funding for clinical trials has also allowed more eligible children to participate in new treatments as researchers deepen their understanding of how to treat the disease. Because children have a more accelerated metabolism, their need for different drugs and treatments is necessary. Their cancer develops differently than an adult’s, and their bodies and the way they respond to treatments are unique as well.
Furthermore, cancer care is more accessible for families from a financial standpoint thanks to advancements in the Affordable Care Act. This allows parents and families to provide essential psychological support for their children, as they endure the experience together.
Children’s Cancer – A Unique Challenge for Patient Care
When it comes to patient care models, pediatric cancer can be entirely different than other clinical specialties.
“It takes a special nurse or leader to work with children. There are unique skills that are required. Not only do they have to be highly skilled clinically, but they also must be talented in the emotional and psychological aspects related to kids,” says Mr. Whetzel.
“The fear of the unknown is different psychologically for a child. Treating children also requires exceptional clinical skills. For example, doing a blood draw or an IV on a child requires more skill than doing these on a full-grown adult because everything is much smaller anatomically.”
Along with high clinical proficiencies, pediatric clinicians and leaders have an additional and equally important layer of treating the patient, which is actively involving the parents with the care of the child, ensuring that they are fully engaged in the child’s treatment plans, care, comfort and continued support and reassurance.
“The family component is critical with pediatric cancer – and patient care delivery is treated differently as a result. There are support organizations that provide lodging for the parents and family members so that they can be there for an extended period of time while the child receives care,” says Mr. Whetzel.
Show Your Support During National Children’s Cancer Month
There are many ways to help children and families experiencing pediatric cancer, both locally and nationally! Consider donating to the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation, a nonprofit based in Tampa that provides funding for pediatric cancer research. Mr. Whetzel shares that there are support groups where cancer survivors and supporters can share their stories and provide empowerment and emotional support for children and families in treatment.
Mission Search is a proud partner in the fight against cancer. Join us and become an ally by making a donation today!