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Pediatric hematology/oncology patients require a specialized team of doctors and caregivers who are committed to offering compassionate, state-of-the-art clinical care while advancing research to help find a cure.

As depicted in A LION IN THE HOUSE, teams are usually comprised of, but not limited to, an oncologist who works closely with registered nurses and nurse practitioners, palliative care and end-of-life specialists, psychosocial workers, nutritionists and specialists in school intervention and child life. Each member of the team has a different role in the care and treatment of patients and families, and combined, their efforts create a network of support, healing and guidance.

“One of the aspects of oncology is that you become part of the family in a way.”
––Dr. Claire Mazewski,
Justin’s doctor

The makeup of a hematology/oncology team depends on the patient’s needs. It is not necessary for an oncology team to have a member from each profession. The number and the kind of physicians, specialists and other professionals on a team depends on several factors, such as availability of specialists, the extent of the disease at diagnosis, the geographic location of the care facility, the lead physician's opinion and the chosen treatment.

Read a brief overview of some of the key members on a hematology/oncology team:

The Oncologists 
(Drs. Arceci, Mazewski, Huang, Jubinsky, Balasa, Zwerdling and DeLaat in A LION IN THE HOUSE)

Oncologists are doctors who specialize in the treatment of cancer. The oncologist explains the cancer diagnosis and the process of the disease, including what stage it is in, at the time of diagnosis. He or she discusses treatment options, recommends the best course of treatment and ensures optimal care and quality of life. Oncologists are often responsible for coordinating the overall care of cancer patients from counseling and clinical genetics to physiotherapy, palliative care and pain and symptom management.

The Registered Nurses
(Justin’s nurse Linda Polman and Tim’s nurse Connie Koons)

Registered nurses are the primary nurses on the team. Providing both medical and emotional support, they are very important figures in the caregiving process, primarily seeing patients through the long days, weeks or even months they are in the hospital.

Registered nurses treat patients and educate patients and the public about various medical conditions while providing advice and emotional support to family members. They record patients’ medical histories and symptoms, help perform and analyze results of diagnostic tests, operate medical machinery, administer treatment and medications and help with patient follow-up and rehabilitation.

Registered nurses also guide patients and their families in ways to manage their illness, providing post-treatment home care information, education about diet and exercise and techniques for self-administration of medication and physical therapy. Some RNs are also trained to provide grief counseling for families and caregivers.

Nurse Practitioners
(Lisa Crosby and Sue Sealock, who examine Al and Tim)

Nurse practitioners are registered nurses with special training in the diagnosis and treatment of illness that primarily work in the outpatient clinic. Nurse practitioners often interview and examine patients, take medical histories, treat routine problems, order laboratory tests and prescribe certain kinds of medicine, referring more complex problems to the appropriate physician on the team.

Palliative Care and End-of-Life (Hospice) Specialists
(Dr. Zwerdling)

For doctors who specialize in palliative (pain/comfort management) and hospice (end-of-life) care, the palliative process begins at diagnosis and remains a primary goal for the patient throughout. 

If choices about end-of-life care become necessary, these pediatric oncologists help patients and families decide if hospice is an appropriate course after treatment has failed. Children may be referred to hospice when treatment goals become more about comfort than finding a cure. In such cases there is not a sudden shift from palliative care to hospice care; that course is more of a gradual continuum.

Social Workers

Social workers have the important role of connecting families to needed services in the community, a role that is especially important for economically disadvantaged parents.

Pediatric oncology social workers are committed to enhancing the emotional and physical well being of children with cancer and their families. Social workers trained in this specialty have a unique body of knowledge with expertise in the areas of development and family life. They are clinicians, educators, advocates and researchers.

Specialists in School Intervention and Child Life

School intervention workers are the crucial link between the child’s school and the family. They arrange for tutors, advocate for the kids within the school system and go into classrooms to speak to classmates’ concerns about the sick child. Specially trained in age-appropriate explanations of cancer, treatment, survivorship and related issues, they travel extensively in the region of their hospital.

In A LION IN THE HOUSE, Jen’s school intervention worker (not shown in the film) was central to the process of her receiving tutoring support. She helped Jen’s school understand the learning disabilities Jen had developed from her chemo treatment by sharing the latest research and guiding them about her specific needs.

Child life specialists work primarily with kids in the hospital. They are certified and trained educators who help children and families cope with the hospital experience. With backgrounds in early childhood and special education, art therapy and recreation therapy, child life specialists create a supportive environment that allows patients to retain their creativity, self-esteem and independence within the hospital setting.

Learn more about the team of professionals featured in

View the caregivers’ guide for helpful tips »

Discover “10 Things You Can Do to Help a Family »



Health Care Professionals  who appeared in A LION IN THE HOUSE - Oncologists

Headshot of Dr. Robert Arceci
Dr. Robert Arceci
Headshot of Dr. Fred Huang
Dr. Fred Huang
Headshot of Dr. Claire Mazewski
Dr. Claire Mazewski
Headshot of Dr. Paul Jubinsky
Dr. Paul Jubinsky
Headshot of Dr. Ted Zwerdling
Dr. Ted Zwerdling
Headshot of Dr. Venod Balasa
Dr. Venod Balasa
Headshot of Dr. Cindi DeLaat
Dr. Cindi DeLaat

Registered Nurses
Linda Polman
Linda Polman
Connie Koons
Connie Koons

Nurse Practitioners
Sue Sealock
Sue Sealock
Lisa Crosby
Lisa Crosby