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Helping Patients Feel at Home

Huntsman at Home caregiver with patient in their home
Huntsman at Home director, Karen Titchener with Huntsman at Home patient, Tom Kurrus. Tom passed away in February 2019. We thank his family for sharing their story.

Going through cancer treatment means spending a lot of time in the hospital—time patients could be spending at home, surrounded by family and familiar comforts. With this in mind, Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) launched a new service in the summer of 2018 called Huntsman at Home, which brings HCI-quality care into the homes of patients.

The Huntsman at Home team assesses and treats issues caused by cancer or its treatments so patients can leave the hospital sooner or avoid going in at all. The service includes managing and treating symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or dehydration; supportive care such as physical therapy; and end-of-life care. The team is always in direct communication with the patient's HCI physician.

Karen Titchener, MS, APRN, adjunct assistant professor of nursing at the University of Utah (U of U), directs Huntsman at Home. "The main difference between our service and traditional home health is the patients are being visited by a nurse practitioner or MD alongside the home health providers. The amount of time we spend and the high-level cancer support is beyond typical home health," Titchener says.

HCI patients must get a referral from their oncologist to receive the service. The day of the referral, a member of the Huntsman at Home care team goes to the home and meets the patient, family, and caregivers.

"When you're invited into a patient's home, you have an instant bond. It's almost like you become part of the family when you walk in the door," says Shannon Shepherd, APRN, lead nurse practitioner for Huntsman at Home. "Often you can just tell they are relieved you are there. And when you leave, you know everybody was better for you being there."

Aspects of Huntsman at Home build on research of home symptom care techniques for cancer patients and their family caregivers, conducted at HCI by Kathi Mooney, PhD, RN, distinguished professor of nursing at the U of U.

"Patients often say one of the most difficult things about living with cancer is the loss of control they feel," says Jamie Brant, MD, physician on HCI's Supportive Oncology and Survivorship team. "Our team approach is always patient-centered with the individual's goals and values guiding their care."

The service is staffed by HCI physicians and nurse practitioners as well as registered nurses through Community Nursing Services. It's available seven days a week and is currently offered to patients in Salt Lake City, with plans to expand to a broader area.

The project is in a three-year pilot phase, with the intent to evaluate the findings and bring insights to cancer care organizations around the world.

Learn more:

Read more stories from the 2019 report to our community

Cancer touches all of us.