The need for strict social distancing measures preventing visitors on inpatient oncology, ICU, and COVID units during the COVID-19 pandemic has had the unintended consequence of leading to significant psychological and spiritual distress for patients and families and “moral distress” for frontline health care teams tasked with supporting patients who are suffering or dying alone without the support of their loved ones. The trauma of these deaths is sometimes further compounded for families by their inability to provide the final rituals of patients’ faith communities in their last moments, leading to complicated and ongoing grief after the loss. To address these complex psychosocial needs among COVID-19 and advanced cancer oncology patients, and the health care teams caring for them, the Simms/Mann UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology, in collaboration with colleagues at the UCLA Anderson School of Business and a team of diverse faith leaders, developed an innovative digitally mediated program for connection, communication, and care. This program, CiRCL (Caring in Remote Communities of Love), leveraged ZOOM and smartphone recording technology to accomplish the following goals: 1) provide psychological support to family members and friends to facilitate the recording of meaningful personal messages to the patient, including curated playlists of evocative songs from the patient’s life to be played at the bedside; 2) facilitate more meaningful communication between loved ones and frontline workers, including messages of gratitude and support to reduce feelings of isolation and moral distress for frontline workers; and 3) create a liturgical library of recorded ecumenical and faith-based blessings from various traditions, available during illness and at time of dying. Blessings include and encompass the health care teams as well as patients. This program, recently developed and being piloted at UCLA, is intended to extend compassion to all within the health care system during the unique challenges of COVID-19 and, by facilitating connection and support among patients, families, and frontline teams, extend the definition of healing and mitigate the impact of loss and grief for all during the many phases of this pandemic.
Citation Format: Kauser Ahmed, Peter Phung, Noah Goldstein, John Glaspy. CiRCL: A psychosocial program facilitating communication and care to patients, families, and frontline health care teams during COVID-19 [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the AACR Virtual Meeting: COVID-19 and Cancer; 2020 Jul 20-22. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Clin Cancer Res 2020;26(18_Suppl):Abstract nr PO-011.