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In sickness and in health: classmates are highly motivated to provide in-hospital support during childhood cancer therapy

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OBJECTIVES: Extended hospitalization for school-aged cancer patients increases their risk of social marginalization. School-aged children mature through peer-interaction, but healthcare providers fail to incorporate this in rehabilitation efforts. The RESPECT study offers classmates to cancer patients to become ambassadors during hospital stays. This study explores classmate decision-making patterns about ambassadorship.

METHODS: An open-ended question was prospectively and consecutively provided to classmates (N = 221) (and parents) of 10 children diagnosed with cancer in 2014 and enrolled in the RESPECT study. Statements were analysed using thematic content analysis.

RESULTS: Of 221 classmates, 140 responded (63%). Of these, 81 applied for ambassadorship (median 8/patient), 58 declined, one was undecided. Nine forms were incomplete; leaving 131 in total that revealed 303 statements for analysis. Five major themes emerged: existing friendship (132/303 statements), personal resources (academic, emotional and social) (107/303), attitudes towards the ambassadorship (34/303), hospital environment (18/303) and logistics (12/303). Of the classmates with pre-existing friendships, 77% applied for ambassadorship and 80% with a surplus of personal resources applied. These were predominant predictors for ambassadorship application. Classmate motives were condensed into four archetypes: pre-existing friendship with a surplus of resources (100% applied), non-friend classmates with a surplus of resources (63% applied), pre-existing friendship with limited resources (22% applied) and non-friend classmates with limited resources (0% applied).

CONCLUSION: Classmates are highly motivated to support patients during serious illness, irrespective of pre-existing friendships. Ambassadors offer a novel in-hospital approach to promote rehabilitation in children with severe/chronic diseases. Results need validation in other settings. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsycho-Oncology
Volume26
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)37-43
ISSN1057-9249
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 12 Feb 2016

ID: 46276248