Improving Patient's Experience with Disease : An Evaluation of Psychological Distress in Veterans with Cancer
Hill, Kelsey L.
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In response to the reintegration of psychological and sociocultural mechanisms of illness back into Western medicine, and the need to improve psychosocial care in cancer patients, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) has initiated guidelines to develop psychological screening and proper referral to allied health professionals as a standard in patient care. From June, 2014 through August, 20141 was able to explore the role of health psychologists at the Veteran's Affairs (VA) Ann Arbor Healthcare System in Ann Arbor, MI. Specifically, I observed the use of the Distress Thermometer assessment tool in patient referral to health psychology and the role of psychological interventions in an oncology setting. Under the supervision of Dr. Clinton Leo Greenstone, Associate Chief of Staff for Ambulatory Care, I was asked to provide insight and recommendations for the development of health psychology and distress screening in the Radiation Oncology Clinic in order to meet NCCN standards. Prior to my time at the VA Ann Arbor, the psychology department conducted a pilot study within Radiation Oncology to get a better understanding of the needs within the clinic. This paper aims to provide an understanding of the implications of cancer in veterans and the role of health psychologists in oncology. Furthermore, I will summarize the pilot study and review the current use of the Distress Thermometer. This paper will provide insight on the needs of the department and suggestions for how to improve quality of psychosocial care for cancer patients. Focus will remain on the uniqueness of the military veteran population, the importance of psychological services and proper psychology interventions in healthcare, and an introduction to other kinds of complementary and alternative methods that might aid in minimizing the psychological distress that accompanies cancer.