Theresa Roelke, a geriatric nurse practitioner with the Maine Medical Center Cancer Institute/MaineHealth Cancer Care Network, manages a comprehensive, patient-centered lung screening program that focuses on lung health. A 3D educational tool she developed for patients was recognized this year with a national innovation award and is now being used as a valuable tool for telehealth consults.
Studies show a need for patient education about lung nodules, which are frequently found on low-dose CT and diagnostic imaging. Roelke believes “visuals create emotion, which helps patients remember.” She created her 3D-printed lung nodule model to reduce anxiety and educate patients undergoing lung cancer screening. Patients often comment that a picture is worth a thousand words.
Visuals create emotion, which helps patients remember. — Theresa Roelke
“Nodule diameter is measured and described in metrics. The challenge is, we are not a metric society, which leads to confusion,” said Roelke. “When we provide a visual tool, patients are not as fearful of a 6 mm nodule. They realize it’s the size of a small, frozen pea and can be watched for growth annually.”
Roelke’s tool was first used in the MMC Thoracic Oncology Clinic during lung screening shared-decision-making consults. As the pandemic led to increased use of telehealth, expanding its use for lung screening virtual consults was a natural transition. Using a visual platform, patients are engaged through experiential learning and are more likely to take ownership to become good stewards of their lung and overall health.
In recognition of the model’s role in improving access, quality and value in cancer care delivery, Roelke received a national innovation award from the Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC) in May 2020.