Overview

The Nurse Ambassador Program combines education, clinical care, and integrative medicine at the bedside. Oncology patients undergoing treatment have the opportunity to try aromatherapy, breathing techniques, meditation, hand and foot massage, and seated yoga delivered by their trusted oncology nurses. Nurses focus on patients in treatment, clinic, and inpatient areas to improve the patient experience along with symptoms and quality of life.

Since 2016, The Wellness and Integrative Oncology Program at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center has trained 95 oncology nurses to provide hand and foot massage, aromatherapy, seated yoga, meditation, and breathing techniques. After training, Nurse Ambassadors offer these integrative therapies at the chair or bedside of oncology patients in infusion, radiation oncology, and inpatient areas to help with symptom management and wellness. The program includes measurement and documentation of patients’ symptoms and experience, nurse support, and group sharing of experiences.

Training

Training is both didactic and hands-on, delivered by our integrative providers under the direction and supervision of Dr. Lanie Francis, Hematologist, Medical Oncologist, and Director of The Wellness and Integrative Oncology Program at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. Integrative therapies that will be learned include: 

  • Aromatherapy
  • Breathing techniques
  • Hand and foot massage
  • Meditation
  • Seated yoga

Training will also include education in lifestyle nutrition, acupuncture, overview of the Wellness and Integrative Oncology Program, and nursing application of integrative therapies.

Training is a two-day, in-person program held at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. Nurses will be required to prepare for training by reviewing educational materials sent prior to training. Nurses who attend training can receive up to 16 hours of CEUs.

The next Nurse Ambassador training will be September 20-21, 2021. 

The deadline to apply for Fall 2021 training is July 23, 2021.

Fees

Training fee is $750 per non-UPMC nurse and $500 per UPMC nurse. Fees include the nurse training and supplies. Payment for training is the responsibility of each hospital and must be made prior to attending training.

Application Process

Each nurse will submit an application. Interviews may be requested depending on work location. Once complete, our selection committee review all applications. Each applicant will be notified of the committee’s decision no later than one month prior to training.

Application Components:

  • Application
  • Brand Usage Guidelines and Agreement
  • Site Operations Form
  • Reference One: Unit Director or Supervisor
  • Reference Two: Co-worker

Operationalizing

Each site operates differently, so it is important for nurses and leadership to discuss how the Nurse Ambassador Program will be implemented at their site. The program works best when Nurse Ambassadors can have dedicated time to practice integrative therapies with patients. Many sites establish a rounding schedule with predetermined dates when Nurse Ambassadors can devote time to implementing integrative therapies. We see the greatest success when nurses are provided with coverage during this time or offer integrative therapies on a day outside of their regularly scheduled shifts. 

Our team is happy to discuss best practices. Kayla Miller, Nurse Ambassador Clinical Liaison, will work with nurses after training on practicing their new skills and perform follow-up evaluations. Danielle Petrina, Project Manager, oversees all operational aspects of the program.

Any site interested in training nurses must identify a Site Coordinator who can help champion this program while Nurse Ambassadors focus on providing integrative therapies to patients. We suggest that this person be a nursing leader or administrator, such as a Unit Director or Clinician. It is extremely helpful for leadership to advocate for the program, promote awareness, and support Nurse Ambassadors. To promote optimal success, Site Coordinators should have input in nurse scheduling and have access to finances for paying of training fees and ordering supplies. 

Responsibilities of the Site Coordinator include:

  • Complete the Site Operations Form
  • Facilitate payment of training fees and ongoing supplies
  • Assist in developing and supporting site-specific workflow for Nurse Ambassador practice, including nurse scheduling, patient referrals, and expectations and goals of the program
  • Liaison to the Wellness and Integrative Oncology Program
  • Budget and ordering of supplies (essential oils, marketing materials)

We highly recommend watching this brief video about the Nurse Ambassador Program to have a better understanding of this role. Please direct any questions about operations, clinical practice, or Site Coordinator responsibilities to Kayla at neffke2@upmc.edu and Danielle at scottdl@upmc.edu

Sustainability

We’ve worked to keep ongoing expenses low to ensure that each site can sustain the Nurse Ambassador Program at a reasonable cost. At training, each Nurse Ambassador is provided with an introductory kit of essential oils and aromatherapy supplies, which is intended to last 6-12 months depending on use and patient volume. 

To replace essential oils and supplies, the estimated cost is approximately $300 per year. Additional expenses may include optional marketing materials and continuing education offerings, depending on preferences of the specific site. Some suggestions to fundraise include hosting a yearly bake sale or having a donation/gratitude box on site.

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