By Erica Techo
Studies show palliative care benefits those who access it, but it is not being utilized by underserved populations in the Deep South. UAB School of Nursing Assistant Professor Yasemin Turkman, PhD, MPH, APRN, PMHNP-BC, is working to change that.
With a two-year grant from the National Palliative Care Research Center, Turkman is studying how patients and caregivers use the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center Patient Navigator Program in order to develop a culturally adapted version that could increase the use of palliative care services by older African-Americans with advanced cancer.
Turkman is studying who has accessed lay navigators and how often, what resources were provided, and the impact of care. She also is looking at who did not use the services to better understand what influences the decision to not engage with navigators by individuals with advanced or life-limiting illness.
“I’m trying to ascertain what people understand about palliative care and, if there is adequate understanding, why aren’t people using it?,” Turkman said. “That will give me information on what it is about the navigation program that worked or did not so that I can then identify potential targets for the new intervention that I’m designing.”
The UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center Patient Navigator Program uses trained, non-nursing professionals to provide cancer patients and their caregivers with resources, assess their levels of distress and the causes, and provide suggested solutions. It is funded through a $15 million Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Health Care Innovation Award.
Once the first investigational phase of the study is complete, Turkman will conduct patient, caregiver and stakeholder interviews to present the potential new design for the culturally adapted intervention. After making modifications from any feedback she receives, Turkman plans to pilot the intervention by training one lay navigator, then testing the culturally adapted intervention with 10 patients and their caregivers. Once she completes the project, Turkman plans to seek additional funding for a larger pilot.
“My hope is that at the end of this study we better understand what is needed to improve access to palliative care for this vulnerable populations, and to ultimately expand the reach of care so that more people who want services can benefit,” Turkman said.
Turkman’s research team includes mentor Marie Bakitas, DNSc, CRNP, NP-C, AOCN, ACHPN, FAAN, and co-mentors, Ed Partridge, MD; Gabrielle Rocque, MD; and Raegan Durant, MD, MPH, colleagues in the School of Nursing, School of Medicine, UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center and UAB Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center, among others.