This summer, I had the opportunity to work in the oncology division at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia with Dr. Charlie Bailey and Dr. Charles Phillips. I helped with various studies, but my main project was a pilot study that focused on how parents of children with cancer seek health information, specifically over the Internet.
It has been established that at least half of people with cancer or their caregivers will look up information online. This study aimed to see how parents of children with cancer utilize the Internet to get information about diagnosis, prognosis, treatments, or side effects. To get this information, those enrolled would provide us with their Google search history. In this way, we would be able to see the timing and specific keywords that parents use when going to the Internet for information about their child’s health. This could then help tailor educational initiatives.
My schedule involved recruiting and consenting parents from the inpatient and outpatient clinic at CHOP to our study, which would include a brief REDCap survey and a downloaded Google search history. As a nursing student, I found interacting with children and their families every day to be incredibly helpful in improving my communication skills. Moreover, after recruiting families, I would use the electronic health record, Epic, to complete chart reviews of the children about their diagnosis, course of treatment, and general health timeline. I found learning to navigate through Epic efficiently to also be incredibly useful, as it is a system I will be using throughout the rest of my undergraduate career as a nursing student. Finally, I would then use RedCap, a database, to input information from their chart. Learning how to use and set up a RedCap file really introduced me to a brand new research skill that I had never previously been exposed to. Overall, I really appreciated the different roles I learned within the same project, as it helped me see and value all the different skills that clinical research requires.
Outside of the specific skills I gained through this experience, I also learned a tremendous amount about pediatric oncology in general. Just from being in a clinical setting every day, I became very familiar with what different treatments, such as chemotherapy, bone marrow transplant, or immunotherapy, entailed for the children and their families. My research experience overlapped with the patients’ and families’ clinical experience, which reaffirmed my desire to become a pediatric oncology nurse and perhaps conduct my own clinical research one day.
I am extremely grateful to PURM, my mentors, and Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation that allowed me to have this opportunity this summer. I will forever be thankful for such a wonderful first research experience!