The aim was to use qualitative methods to describe how living in a rural setting during receipt of treatment at an urban cancer center affects a patient’s clinical course and to identify feasible areas of intervention to enhance service to these families. Pediatric patients with cancer who live in rural communities face disparate access to medical services compared with those in urban areas.

We conducted semi structured interviews of caregivers of pediatric patients with cancer who received treatment at an urban pediatric hospital in the Midwest. Eighteen caregiver interviews were conducted. Five multi themed domains were identified; two related to receipt of emergent care at local hospitals, one related to the impact that distance had on the family, and two related to managing and coping with a pediatric cancer diagnosis.

The recommendation is to take feasible steps to improve the care of rural children with cancer, including improved parental anticipatory guidance about unanticipated emergent visits to local hospitals, outreach to local hospitals, and medical visit coordination.