Nicole’s son accompanying her on an outreach visit to Tufts Floating Hospital for Children

Reflecting on 10 Years of Partnership With Tufts Children’s Hospital

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With a focus on meeting families where they are, Family Reach has always collaborated with oncology social work teams across the country to identify families who need our free financial support. Tufts Medical Center is one of the partners that played an integral role in establishing our program delivery model.

After learning of the closing of the Tufts Children’s Hospital (also known as the Floating Hospital), we invited Nicole, our Senior Manager of Patient and Family Engagement, to share her experience working with the Tufts team.

When I heard about the closing of the Tufts Floating Hospital for Children, I was immediately moved to tears. More than our collaboration with their team, their proximity to Family Reach’s Boston office made the Tufts team feel like extended family.

As the leader of our patient and family engagement efforts at Family Reach, I have had the privilege to work closely with Tufts, though I speak for all of Family Reach when I say we deeply admire their personalized and family-centric approach and will forever be grateful for their partnership.

Colleen Tierney, a parent liaison at Tufts said it best when reflecting on the news of their closure: “Nicole, you’ve seen firsthand what we do … we fully support our families medically, psychosocially, financially. They are truly family. Family Reach has allowed us to close the gap of caring for them financially through the worst times of their lives. You are all part of our team and this feels like such an enormous loss.”

As we reflect on a decade of working together, here’s a look at the impact of our partnership over the years.

Supporting families going through pediatric cancer

Together, Tufts Floating and Family Reach have supported nearly 250 families with free financial resources while they had a child going through treatment.

Our teams know that when families face a daunting treatment, they also take on an unknown financial journey. We know that financial problems impact up to 73% of cancer patients from all walks of life in this country.1 We’re united in our strong belief that there is no shame in needing financial help when going through cancer treatment.

One of the families our teams supported together is the Bingham family. Their 10-year-old son Dalton was treated at Tufts for leukemia, and he now returns to the hospital every few months for maintenance care.

Dalton’s mom, Laura, shared her thoughts about the news of the closure, saying “Tufts Floating is home. It’s the gentle and trustworthy care, the sugar cookies, the just-right pokes, the you’ve-messed-with-the-wrong-kid attitude, the patience, the accommodations, the small victories to survivorship. As a parent, it meant never feeling like my child is a number.”

She continued, “When I think about Dalton’s cancer treatment, I often think about those who carried us during our most vulnerable moments and the triumphant ones. Dalton’s story could never be told without sharing our love and admiration for Tufts Floating and Family Reach.”

Dalton's last day of chemo
Dalton with his parents on his last day of chemotherapy at Tufts
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When Dalton found out about the closure, he had a slew of questions: “Mommy, I don’t know what the pokes are like at [the other hospital]. What if they are different? What if they don’t let me use my Christmas blanket? What if I get sick? What if I never see them again? What if they can’t help me? What if … the MAGIC only works at Tufts?”

Over the years, we’ve forged strong relationships with Tufts families after supporting them and many of the parents, including Laura, joined our Family Council. They serve as trusted advisors as we develop meaningful programs and continually improve our impact on families nationwide. Many of their children are the pediatric cancer heroes who serve as our inspiration and guiding light — we call them “our why.”

Other parents on our Family Council reacted similarly to the news of the hospital closure, calling the team at Tufts the “BEST team in the world,” “second family,” and a kindhearted support system that “there’s no way I would have gotten through all we did without them.”

Nicole with parents of Tufts patients
Nicole (right) with parents of Tufts patients who joined the Family Reach Family Council

Taking our partnership to new levels

Over the years, our collaboration with Tufts took on various forms beyond the family referrals to Family Reach for financial support.

When I first started at Family Reach in 2013, I set out to connect with families in person to see firsthand what their treatment days look like and gain a better understanding of their biggest needs. Tufts quickly became one of my most treasured and trusted thought partners. Tufts not only welcomed my outreach visits, they also welcomed me into their family.

Art projects at Tufts
Art projects during an outreach visit at Tufts

In 2017, Tufts graciously agreed to participate in an oncology financial navigation pilot program to explore the impact of more comprehensive financial support, specifically health insurance optimization at the hospital combined with the free education and emergency relief services that Family Reach could provide.

“The pilot highlighted the importance of our collaboration with hospitals — Miwa at Tufts was critical in helping families optimize their insurance and save money while also referring them to Family Reach for the non-medical support from the Financial Treatment Program,” shared Andrea Incudine, Family Reach’s Director of Impact.

The Tufts team lives and works by the motto painted on their walls: “You don’t have to be big to be strong.” Our partnership embodied this idea as working together made our small but mighty teams stronger, and we knew that our collaboration could get more families to the other side of cancer.

Nicole with Tufts staff
Nicole (right) with Tufts staff and the Ameriprise Financial team in front of the motto wall when they donated craft boxes as part of their partnership with Family Reach

Feeling gratitude for treatment center collaboration

We couldn’t do the work we do each day without the collaboration of oncology social workers and care teams like the superstars at Tufts Floating. They’re an incredible example of why Family Reach collaborates with cancer treatment centers nationwide to incorporate financial treatment into their treatment journeys.

While the future of the pediatric oncology unit at Tufts Medical Center remains in transition, Family Reach will always be grateful for its incredible team of healthcare professionals. We are better because of our collaboration with them and the impact they have made on hundreds of families and our work at Family Reach will carry on for years to come.

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If you’re a social worker or healthcare provider, find out more about our Financial Treatment Program here.

1. Gordon LG, Merollini KMD, Lowe A, Chan RJ. A Systematic Review of Financial Toxicity AmongCancer Survivors: We Can’t Pay the Co-Pay. Patient. 2016:1-15

Nicole Ackerman Headshot
Nicole Ackerman
Senior Manager of Patient & Family Engagement • Family Reach Team

Leading patient and family engagement at Family Reach, Nicole has been dedicated to improving the lives of cancer patients for more than 20 years. Nicole works directly with patients and families to elevate their voices, communicate impact, and advocate for change in the cancer experience.

Read more from Nicole Ackerman.

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