Patient Family & Community Engagement | Volunteer Professionals

The Digital Sherpa Program: Enriching the Patient Experience and Encouraging Self-Advocacy

LaWanda Byrd, Director, Volunteer Services, Moffitt Cancer Center
Andrea Conners, Executive Director, Patient Empowerment Network

An innovative partnership between the Patient Empowerment Network (PEN) and Moffitt Cancer Center aims to bridge the digital divide through an innovative volunteer program called the Digital Sherpa©Program. The program aims to help patients better utilize the plethora of digital tools and resources available to them and their care partners throughout treatment beyond. The Digital Sherpa© Program, created by Patient Empowerment Network in 2016, pairs tech-savvy volunteers with less tech-savvy patients to assist patients with using Moffitt’s GetWell Network of resources, Patient Portal, and other digital platforms and tools such as social media and on-line patient support groups. The program’s goal is for a volunteer, known as a “Sherpa”, to be dispatched to all newly-admitted inpatient rooms within 24-48 hours of admission to offer Digital Sherpa™support. The program launched at Moffitt in February 2018 and has been well received by staff and patients. Along with learning technology skills, the patients and their Sherpas share great companionship. This program allows two generations to unite and have fun in each other’s company while learning valuable skills. The students learn they can make a tangible difference in someone’s life with the tech knowledge they already possess and the patients learn how to empower themselves and become more health literate.

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