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Oncology nurse, Johns Hopkins student studies cancer patients from rural areas

Saturday July 13, 2013
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As a former EMT in rural Virginia, Rachel Klimmek, RN, BSN, OCN, witnessed disparities faced by residents separated from good care by distance and poverty. So when she decided her PhD dissertation should look at health disparities among aging cancer survivors, Klimmek knew right where to start, according to a news release.

The oncology nurse and student at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing in Baltimore chose to examine the relationships between older, rural-dwelling patients and their support persons during the months of transition after cancer treatment. What Klimmek found, according to the release, is that the goals of patients and helpers can differ vastly — despite the best of intentions — and that this conflict, added to isolation and poverty, can slow the recovery process.

According to the release, one issue was overprotective caregivers who did not allow patients to do things for themselves out of worry that they would get hurt. This conflicted with the practical needs of patients to re-establish independence.

"Keeping [patients] and helpers on the same page is crucial," Klimmek said in the release. "These acts of love are how we show we care. But there is an art to both giving and accepting care from others. As nurses, we need to help aging patients and support persons strike that balance."

Klimmek said in the release that she feels a debt to those who opened their homes and lives to her and that she hopes to continue the health disparities work at Johns Hopkins or an institution with similar interdisciplinary research strengths.


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