The aim of this research project was to gain an understanding of the experiences of rural cancer patients who commute to an urban cancer center for palliative care.
The study utilized a mixed method design. Fifteen individuals with a palliative designation participated in semi-structured interviews and filled out the Problems and Needs in Palliative Care Questionnaire.
Qualitative findings included three major themes: cultures of rural life and care, strategies for commuting, and the effects of commuting. Participants valued their rural lifestyles and gained significant support from their communities. Strategies included preparing for the trip with particular attention to pain management, making the most of time, and maintaining significant relationships. Establishing a routine helped to offset the anxiety of commuting. Commuting was costly but the quality of life and supportive relationships obtained through treatment were significant benefits. Questionnaire data suggested that participants were experiencing a number of problems but few indicated they desired more professional attention to those problems.
Rural lifestyles are often an important part of overall well-being and commuting for care is both costly and complex. Health care providers should assist individuals to weigh the relative contributions of staying in their rural locale versus commuting for care to their overall quality of life. Palliative-care individuals in this study indicated a number of ongoing problems but were not inclined to seek further assistance from health care providers in addressing those problems. Clinicians should actively inquire about problems and further research is needed to understand why patients are reluctant to seek help.