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Transition Volunteers
- One stop for information and support after cancer treatment

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Although completing cancer treatment is a milestone worthy of celebration, patients often feel anxious about losing regular contact with their cancer care team. They may have questions about what happens next; the follow-up tests they need and how often; who to talk to if they have a concern; and where to find reliable information.

The role of the Transition Volunteer was developed by Cancer Care Nova Scotia, in partnership with the Canadian Cancer Society (NS and BC) and the Central Zone Cancer Care Program in Halifax, to meet this need.

Funded by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, the ‘Living Beyond Cancer – Moving to Follow-up Care’ is a pilot program designed to provide patients who are close to completing their cancer treatment, with a one-stop source for non-medical information and available community supports.

“Many patients have told us they feel abandoned after completing their cancer treatments, and often don’t know where to go for support,” said Sandra Cook, Project Manager for the pilot program. “We hope the Transition Volunteers will be one more way to provide patients, with the supports they need to successfully return to life in their home community.”

The Transition Volunteer Program fits nicely with CCNS’s Survivorship Strategy, which includes supports such as re-connecting patients with Cancer Patient Navigators in their home community, making patients aware of the Living Beyond Cancer education sessions, and patient guidelines about necessary follow-up after completing cancer treatment.

In preparing for the role, 10 volunteers recently completed a seven-week online training program, attended two face to face meetings, and participated in an orientation of the Nova Scotia Cancer Centre.

Five transition volunteers will be located at the Nova Scotia Cancer Centre and the other five will be at the Canadian Cancer Society’s Lodge that Gives. The volunteers will provide one to one support, either in person at the Cancer Centre or at the Lodge that Gives or by telephone. If the patient wishes, the Transition Volunteer can check in with the patient by phone for up to three months after their initial contact.

Angela VanAmburg, a Transition Volunteer located at the Nova Scotia Cancer Centre, is looking forward to her new role. “I supported my mother when she had cancer, and I know a program like this would have helped her and our family after she finished her treatment,” she said. “I believe this new program will help many people find the information and supports to help them transition to life after cancer.”

With the Transition volunteers trained and ready to help patients, recruiting patients is the next step. Cancer centre staff like Suzanna Sancton, an oncology nurse, will help spread the word. As patients near completion of their treatment, she and her colleagues will inform patients of the service and notify the volunteer office of the request for the program.

“The project team has developed an information letter for staff to give to patients who are close to finishing their treatment,” said Sandra. “The letter explains the volunteer role and how they can register. It also indicates that it is a pilot project, which will be evaluated. For this reason, patients who use the volunteer service are asked to complete a permission slip, which grants permission for us to contact the patient at a later date to ask if the service was helpful.”

The pilot program runs from January 2016 to December 2016. Evaluation of the program will begin in September. If the evaluation results indicate the volunteers are helping to meet patient needs, efforts will be made to expand the program across the province.

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