Mind-Body Medicine Doctoral Student Grows her Practicum Placement into a new Position Coordinating "Cancer Survivorship Program"
Doctoral students in Saybrook's School of Mind-Body Medicine complete a Practicum placement. For students with clinical aspirations, this is typically a clinical practicum in health or mental health care, for others it can be a research practicum or a practicum in health care administration or consultancy. Francinne Lawrence is a PhD student in health care systems, and her practicum experience has evolved into a career-level position.
Mary Bird Perkins (MBP) Cancer Treatment Center is recognized as a leading cancer treatment facility in Louisiana and is associated with Our Lady of the Lake (OLOL) Hospital and the Louisiana State University Health System. Having had a previous career in hospital chaplaincy and medical social work, Francinne wanted to be a change agent for healthcare systems, instead of working with one patient at a time. She chose to follow Saybrook's healthcare systems track in Mind-Body Medicine..
Francinne learned that a friend, who was Director of Research for Mary Bird Perkins, might be able to open the door for a practicum there. He wasn’t aware of any mind-body medicine work occurring at Mary Bird Perkins, but he was willing to put Francinne in contact with key people who might. That started a process of e-mail trails and meetings, beginning with Francinne explaining what offering a Mind-Body Medicine program could contribute to patient services. MBM services were virtually nonexistent at the time, but administrators were interested and even eager to explore ways of bringing these services to their patients.
Working with techniques learned in her initial MBM Skills Training groups, a component in the degree programs of all students in the School of Mind-Body Medicine, Francinne proposed the creation of a modified version of a mind-body skills group for cancer survivors, family members, and caregivers. (Anyone diagnosed with cancer at MBP is recognized as a cancer survivor.) Now known as Mind-Body Together, the new group provides both a support component and the practice of MBM skills. Each week, after a time of sharing and support, the group practices a mind-body medicine technique to help reduce the symptoms of cancer and conventional treatment including insomnia, fatigue, nausea, physical pain, anxiety, and depression.
Quickly, patients began to share their experiences in the group and how it helped them, with their doctors, nurses, and other patients. Mary Bird Perkins’ administrators invited Francinne to present to allied health professionals at OLOL and soon the staff at the associated hospital began asking about Mind-Body services for inpatients. A second group was begun for inpatients and their families. One day, at a loss for services to offer a patient with metastatic breast cancer who was in unrelenting pain, a nurse navigator suggested the patient contact Francinne. The physician agreed. Francinne visited the patient and with the hospital chaplain present, she did a brief patient assessment. She then engaged the patient in conversation about mind-body medicine techniques and asked if she would like to try some guided imagery. The patient agreed. After a few minutes of leading the patient in the practice of deep muscle relaxation, the patient fell into a sound sleep. Upon awakening, the patient was amazed at the warm sensation she experienced throughout her body and at the relief from pain.
Patient experience after experience, group session after group session, the popularity and familiarity with the Mind-Body services grew. As a result of the impact the MBM program had on patient services, key administrators dove into an already tight budget and found the funding to create a full-time position for Francinne as Survivorship Coordinator. Her supervisor admitted to her, that there was an all out battle between the cancer treatment center and the associated hospital as to who would “claim” the program. The cancer treatment center won. And so did Francinne who reports that the cancer treatment center is an exciting place to be. “It is amazing to see patients feel empowered about their role in the healing process.” “They ‘light up’ knowing they now have ways to help themselves feel better and facilitate their own journey to wellness.” “What began as a practicum of last resort, turned into a dream position that allows me to use both my MBM practice and healthcare systems skills.”
Francinne has been hired to coordinate the survivorship program and develop complementary therapy services for oncology patients, their families, and caregivers. She believes without a doubt that this opportunity would not have been made available to her without her engagement in the MBM Ph.D. program and the practicum placement.