A Volunteer Based Therapeutic Touch Program in a Cancer Centre
By Mary Leslie, Vancouver, B.C.

The Fraser Valley Cancer Centre's Therapeutic Touch Clinic first opened for patients in September 1998. It offered Therapeutic Touch treatments to patients and/or their family members in pre-booked clinic appointments of 30-45 minutes duration, one afternoon per week. Six volunteers were part of the original clinic when it opened. There are currently up to 9 volunteers and one or two patient and family counselling staff participating weekly.

The Therapeutic Touch Program at the BC Cancer Agency started with Lis Smith, social worker, and registered nurse, Janie Brown's attendance at anIntroductory Therapeutic Touch course with Susan Mayer, over 10 years ago. It now encompasses Therapeutic Touch treatments and classes in all four of the cancer centres that make up the BC Cancer Agency as well as the TT Clinic at the Fraser Valley Centre. The agency is also involved in Therapeutic Touch research with prostate and breast cancer patients

The TT Clinic program is closely supervised by staff from the Patient and Family Counselling Services, who meet with those requesting attendance at the clinic prior to their first session for assessment re their suitability for the volunteer based clinic. Staff are responsible for recording on patient's charts and see all new participants and those requesting counselling following their treatments as well. Each clinic ends with a peer and staff review session.

Supervision and ongoing training and education for the volunteers are an integral part of the clinic program. The volunteers attend up to 2-3 days for training per year in addition to the ongoing weekly education components. They recently completed a two day Intermediate TT course with Neila Campbell (of Orcas Island fame).

Some of the volunteers have offered their services for our ongoing TT Teaching Sessions for patients and families, helping to set up and welcome participants as well as being supportive during the class practice times.

An evaluation of the program indicated that over 70% of those who responded (over 60% of clinic participants returned evaluations in the first year) felt the TT sessions had very much contributed to an increased state of relaxation, with over 20 % responding that they had somewhat contributed to an increased state of relaxation. An increased state of well being and hope were highlighted by over half of the respondents as well.

Volunteers speak very positively of their participation in the clinic program, and often comment that it is the highlight of their week, stating that doing therapeutic touch has significantly shifted their priorities, and attentiveness to their own self-care. Their enthusiasm has been consistently matched by the enthusiasm of patients and family members. Currently 9-12 patients and/or support persons are being seen each week in the afternoon clinic and there is usually a 1-2 week waiting list for those seeking appointments. The majority of those attending the clinic come an average of 4-6 times, though many have sought TT up to 8-10 sessions. Patients have sought TT prior to starting, during and following regular cancer treatments. Plans are underway to integrate the volunteers into the chemotherapy clinics one or two afternoons weekly, for less formally scheduled treatments and support.

Support for the Therapeutic Touch Clinic among the Centre's staff has steadily grown as staff have both heard patient's positive feedback and have seen the benefits in calmer patients who radiate the support they have received from their participation in the Clinic. The benefits to staff, who feel pressed for time to meet the many requests made for Therapeutic Touch, have been considerable. Perhaps the greatest benefit of the clinic program is summed up in a comment made by several patients on the evaluations: "It is so wonderful to see Complementary Care being offered side by side with Allopathic Care and to have an association with this centre other than that of 'less than pleasant' chemotherapy or radiation treatments and side effects".

Thanks to our TT pioneers, Lis and Janie, and the support of the nursing and family and patient counselling staff initially and the staff from all disciplines of the agency currently, Therapeutic Touch has become not only an accepted, but integral part of cancer treatment at the BC Cancer Agency. For the staff and patients at Fraser Valley Cancer Centre, the clinic and volunteers have made an indelible mark in their first two years, and are clearly 'here to stay'.

To learn more about the Therapeutic Touch Clinic, please contact The Patient and Family Counselling Services at Fraser Valley Cancer Centre, (of the BC Cancer Agency), 13750 96th Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada V3V 1Z2, or call (604) 930-4000

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