Thursday, April 24, 2014

STAR Program Emphasizes Care in Cancer Treatment

     Receiving a diagnosis of cancer is frightening. Cancer treatment can be a daunting undertaking that leaves patients feeling isolated, desperate, and with little hope.

     In July 2014, Meritus Health plans to implement a program that will allow patients to take comfort in knowing that when they receive treatment for cancer at Meritus Medical Center, they are not alone. 

     The program, which is called STAR, stands for Survivor Training and Rehabilitation. According to the organization’s website, STAR is a nationally recognized cancer survivorship program that has the goal of minimizing the side-effects of cancer treatment, and providing the patient with the best quality of life that is possible.

     The national STAR program began when a patient diagnosed with cancer, who also was a doctor, felt that more resources were needed for patients throughout the treatment process. The program started development, implementation, and gradually grew throughout the country.

     Health care providers at Meritus Health discussed the value of having this type of program at Meritus Medical Center, and they received the green light to develop STAR here.

     Jeanni Moyer, STAR program coordinator, said that STAR will allow patients to receive more individualized treatment, additional services, and is open to patients who have been diagnosed with any form of cancer.

     “Our goal is to provide comprehensive, evidenced-base rehabilitation care for our cancer survivors,” she said. “The addition of rehabilitation services (physical, occupational, and speech therapy), will be an excellent adjunct to the medical interventions that are already being provided at The John R. Marsh Cancer Center,” she said.

     Currently, there are 25 Meritus Health employees, from different areas within the organization, who are going through the certification process. These include: Total Rehab Care, The Center for Breast Health, Meritus Cancer Specialties, and The John R. Marsh Cancer Center. The program involves training, an examination at the end that trainees must pass, and ongoing education to be sure that certified providers stay up-to-date on the newest policies and procedures.

     Moyer said that during cancer treatment, patients can experience side-effects such as fatigue, weakness, balance and gait problems, difficulty with speech, and swallowing issues. The providers who receive this additional training can help patients improve their quality of life.

     Susan Lopp, Director of the John R. Marsh Cancer Center, who is also a coordinator of the STAR program, says that Meritus Health plans to have the first 25 staff members going through the program certified in June, and hopefully, the program will be implemented in July. She said that the program will be patient focused and collaborative between departments.

     “We have a steering committee and I, along with Jeanni Moyer, the STAR coordinator for Rehab Services, assure support to the staff completing the certification,” Lopp said.

     Moyer and Lopp will also work collectively to develop and coordinate the implementation process with physicians, and to maintain internal communication between departments.

     Both Moyer and Lopp emphasize that the STAR program is about helping patients feel self-empowered, and giving them the support and guidance that they need to move beyond their cancer diagnosis.

     For more information on the STAR program, please visit the Oncology Rehab Partners Website, and click on the “For Survivors” Tab.

By: Mark Russ

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