Alberta Cancer Foundation

Home is where the treatment is

Over the past three years, Alberta Children’s Hospital has pioneered the Hospital at Home program. The program, which began in 2012, allows children in the Calgary area to receive some of their cancer treatments, including chemotherapy, without having to go to the hospital. At the beginning the program only serviced a few patients, but now there have been hundreds of children treated and there are two registered nurses that work each day to provide care and comfort to children and families in crisis.

Shelaine Semmens is one of the nurses who works for Hospital at Home. During a regular day, Semmens drives to a child’s home, provides a physical exam and then administers their treatment – the whole process takes about an hour. The program allows children to receive their treatment while playing with their favourite toys and resting in their own bed. It also saves parents from the emotional and often physically demanding task of bringing their child into the hospital for long periods of time, preserving the family’s schedule and sense of normalcy.

On an average day Semmens visits up to four families. “The care in the home really reduces the family’s stress and the kids tolerate [treatment] so much better than when they’re in the hospital and that’s such a joy to see,” says Semmens, who has spent most of her career working in hematology and oncology. “These are all families that are in crisis. Our job is to ease crisis and provide them with the highest quality care and I think we do a great job at that.”

Currently, Hospital at Home has funding until March 2017. There is a high demand for the program, and Semmens hopes the program will be able to expand its services in the future.