The leukemia health-care team

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Learn about the roles of different members of your child's health-care team, including their oncologists and nurses.

Key points

  • Your child's heath care team will include medical, nursing, and family support health-care professionals.

After your child’s diagnosis, you will have a primary health team who will care for you and your child during treatment. The primary health-care team involves many health-care professionals.

Medical team

Primary physician (also referred to as Staff physician)

This is the main doctor responsible for the overall care of your child. This doctor is a paediatric oncologist who is trained in treating children with cancer. Your doctor may train residents and fellows. When hospitalized, you may meet other pediatric oncologists who are the “on-service” doctors on the inpatient unit. This doctor will communicate with your primary oncologist for any major management decisions. There may also be physicians from other specialties who assist in the care of your child, such as infectious disease specialists, gastroenterologists or cardiologists.

Haematology/Oncology fellows

Qualified paediatricians who are training in treating children with cancer, blood diseases, and transplantation. You may have a fellow assigned to you who will be a member of your primary team.

Paediatric residents

Qualified medical doctors who are training to become paediatricians.

Nurse Practitioner

A nurse practitioner is an expert in caring for children with cancer. They have completed a Master’s degree in nursing. They can help with diagnosis, prescribe medications, order and interpret diagnostic tests, and perform advanced practice procedures. They coordinate care and communicate with families.

Clinical associates

Paediatric oncologists work primarily on the inpatient unit to help care for patients on a daily basis.

Contact nurse

This nurse coordinates your child’s care with you and the primary physician. The contact nurse can answer all your questions while your child is being treated.

Nursing team

Many nurses will care for your child during treatment. They will help by:

  • checking your child to make sure they are comfortable
  • using the central line or port to give medicines or to withdraw blood
  • giving chemotherapy medicines to treat your child’s cancer
  • giving any other care your child may need while they are being treated
  • teaching and helping you, your child, and your family
  • talking with your child’s health-care team

Clinical leaders / nurse-in-charge

These nurses are responsible for what happens on each nursing unit on a daily basis. They also make sure that everything is prepared for when your child is discharged from the hospital, and help solve other problems that might arise.

Home care coordinator

A nurse who organizes services including nursing visits to your home for your child. If your child needs home care, the home care coordinator will meet with you before going home.

Interlink nurse

A nurse who is expert in community programs and other services that will help you and your child. They may visit you and your child at home, and help you get the services you need in your community. If your child goes to school, the Interlink nurse will help you with any questions about your child’s schooling and may visit the school to provide information.

Outreach nurse

If your child has to have some of their care at a hospital closer to home, an outreach nurse will help make the necessary arrangements. Such hospitals are called satellite centers or community hospitals. The outreach nurse ensures that both hospitals know what is happening with your child’s care.


A health-care professional who is an expert in medications. They also prepare, dispense, and store drugs. In the hospital, pharmacists work with other members of your child’s health-care team to review and optimize the drug therapy your child is receiving. The pharmacist explains how to give your child medicines at home, possible drug side effects, and how to prevent or manage these side effects.

Family support team

Social worker

A health-care professional trained to help individuals and families deal with lifestyle changes, problems, and relationships. A social worker offers counselling to patients to identify concerns, consider solutions, and find services that can help them.

Child life specialist

A child life specialist provides therapeutic play interventions and opportunities for children to build supportive relationships, express themselves, gain mastery, and learn about the hospital environment. Child life specialists work to minimize the negative impact of illness and hospitalization for children and their families.


The chaplain offers religious services, prayer, and other types of spiritual help. Hospitals have chaplains from a variety of different religious groups.

Music therapist

A music therapist is trained to use music to help your child emotionally, socially, physically and spiritually. They may engage your child in singing, writing songs, storytelling, playing instruments, improvising, and listening.

Therapeutic clown

A therapeutic clown helps to bring laughter and joy to your child while they are being treated in the hospital. The clown engages your child to play and have fun, helping them deal with the stress of medical tests and operations.

Other members of your child’s health-care team

Depending on your child’s needs, other professionals might be involved in your child’s care.


The dietitian is specially trained to deal with any problems your child may have with their nutrition during treatment. The dietitian may see your child if they are losing weight or having problems eating because of treatment.

Information coordinator

The information coordinator books the appointments and tests that your child’s health-care team asks for. They can help you if you need to change the time of a test or appointment.


A psychologist who specializes in understanding brain-behaviour relationships.

A neuropsychologist assesses functions such as:

  • visual-motor and fine motor skills
  • intelligence
  • attention
  • memory
  • language
  • problem solving
  • academic skills

They may also diagnose disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or learning disabilities. Neuropsychologists can offer strategies to help people improve skills and functions, assist in obtaining special academic placements or accessing community resources, and provide counselling.

Occupational therapist (OT)

An OT is trained to deal with problems such as eating, bathing, and dressing. They will help monitor your child as they go through the normal stages of growth and development.

Physiotherapist (PT)

The PT is trained to treat your child’s issues with movement caused by nerve damage or muscle conditions. For instance, a PT might help teach your child how to walk with a crutch or help with their breathing after a test or operation.


A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in treating problems with behaviour and emotions caused by illness or treatment. They counsel children and families, and prescribe medicines to help treat the signs or symptoms of the problems that you or your child may be experiencing.


A child and adolescent psychologist is a professional who specializes in working with children, youth, and families whose mental, emotional, and behavioral lives are not developing as desired by the child, teen, or family. Such difficulties in development may be the result of a variety of biological, psychological and social factors.


If your child is in school, a teacher who works in the hospital will help them complete their school work while being treated. This teacher can talk to your child’s teacher at school about your child’s school work.

Your child’s family doctor or paediatrician in the community

You may visit a satellite centre closer to your home for monitoring, treatment, or emergency visits. A paediatrician at the centre may see your child and will update your primary oncology team.

The primary oncology care team at the hospital will update your child’s family doctor with information about your child’s cancer and treatment.

Last updated: March 6th 2018