Mayo Clinic promotes colorectal awareness

Message delivered on time and in budget

By Kelli Fee-Schroeder, RN, BSN

Janine Kokal, RN, MS


Mayo Clinic Cancer Center

Rochester, MN

As educators within the Mayo Clinic Cancer Education Program, we have opportunities to collaborate with various departments on cancer-related education initiatives. This past March, for Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, we partnered with the division of gastroenterology and cancer center communications to develop an awareness campaign for patients and an education session for staff on colorectal cancer.

Our goal was to reach individuals, both patients and staff, throughout the Mayo Clinic system with the colorectal cancer awareness message while at the same time keeping development costs and staff time to a minimum. Therefore, we developed a poster with a brief main message because individuals within this setting may not have the time or desire to stand and read a lengthy poster. For those who wanted more information, the design allowed for individuals to select a flyer explaining multiple aspects of colorectal cancer as a take-home message.

The poster was 2 x 3 feet with the brief message: "Preventing Colon Cancer Begins With You. Talk with your doctor or healthcare provider about your risk. Ask about screening tests right for you." We purposely chose not to indicate on the poster that March was Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. This was done in part to stay within institutional guidelines as well as maintain a general message so the posters could be used for future initiatives. A lightweight plastic holder was affixed to the poster, which held 50 8½ x 11-inch flyers. The flyer was a Mayo Clinic authored, eight-page medical essay dedicated to the issues of colorectal cancer. It was published as a supplement to the June 2000 issue of the Mayo Clinic Health Letter, a consumer health publication.

Twelve posters were placed in various locations throughout Mayo Clinic Rochester and our two affiliate hospitals. Specific locations were selected based on high-patient/visitor volume such as cafeterias, lobbies, patient libraries, and locations where patients would be seen for colorectal disorders such as medical oncology and gastroenterology.

In coordination with volunteer staff, the posters were monitored and flyers restocked throughout the month of March. Stocking the flyers was initially scheduled to take place three times per week. However, heavy interest in the medical essays required daily monitoring and restocking, and many of the posters were emptied before the end of each business day. A total of 3,100 medical essays were distributed on the Mayo Clinic Rochester campus, which greatly exceeded our expectations.

Mayo Clinic Rochester also provides support and resources to the Mayo Health System, which is a network of health care facilities throughout Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. These sites were included in the delivery of posters and essays. A total of 40 posters and 500 essays were delivered to the Mayo Health System sites with the understanding that those sites would be responsible for monitoring, stocking and ordering more essays.

Keeping the message brief and sharing resources between the cancer education program, cancer center communications and division of gastroenterology helped make this a cost-effective endeavor. The cost per poster was $45, and because the medical essays were an internal publication, their cost was negligible.

In addition to this patient awareness campaign, we used an established monthly lecture series for Mayo Clinic allied health staff titled "Cancer Connections: A Multidisciplinary Update." (See article below for further explanation about the Cancer Connection series.) The March program was promoted as "Current Concepts for Colon Cancer: Prevention and Screening." Program content addressed prevention, barriers to screening, evolving screening tools, and recommendations from leading Mayo Clinic experts in the field of colon cancer research. A patient concluded the lecture by sharing his experience of undergoing standard and sophisticated colon cancer screening.

This was the most highly attended Cancer Connections session from the previous year to date. The evaluations from this staff education initiative were very positive, and comments from attendees were all favorable.

Finding cost-effective ways to raise awareness, increase knowledge, or change behavior is critical in today’s health care environment. By collaborating and sharing resources with other departments, tapping into existing resources, and keeping our message brief, we were able to successfully meet that challenge.