Oncology nurse helps kids avoid anesthesia

Mentoring program created by oncology nurse to help young patients avoid anesthesia during treatment

In August 2010, Bolton developed a mentoring program to help children avoid anesthesia during proton therapy. Generally speaking, children up to age 7 receive anesthesia to ensure immobility during treatment. However, sometimes it is apparent at the initial consult that some children between the ages of 6 and 7 may be able to proceed through the treatment without anesthesia. If this is the case, the mentoring program is discussed with the parents and the child. Bolton mentored the first child in the program, who was able to receive treatment without anesthesia. Children who choose to participate in the mentoring program will meet with a child who is currently receiving proton therapy. This child, the mentor, will show the new child and his or her family the treatment room, demonstrate how to lie still for the treatment, and answer any questions from the child or the parents. The young mentee is then supported through his or her practice session by the mentor, helping the two children develop a special bond. At a later date, the mentee becomes the mentor to another new child. To date, 10 children who were scheduled to receive anesthesia prior to treatment have gone on to successful treatments without anesthesia.

There are a number of advantages to not being anesthetized prior to treatment: Children don’t need to fast, and they don’t need to arrive as early for treatment, thus shortening the length of time in the treatment facility. They also don’t need to wake up from anesthesia, which can be frightening. Receiving anesthesia can extend the child’s time in the facility by an hour and a half to two hours. “The fact that children are able to succeed without anesthesia and go on to mentor other children increases their self-esteem and empowers them”, says Bolton.