Dr. Cheryl Nekolaichuk


Department of Oncology

Division of Palliative Care Medicine
    Contact details are for academic matters only.

About Me

Dr. Cheryl Nekolaichuk is a registered psychologist with former training as a professional clinical pharmacist. After obtaining her Bachelor in Pharmacy degree in 1979, she worked as a clinical hospital pharmacist in medicine and geriatrics. Subsequently, she obtained her Master’s (1990) and Doctorate (1995) in Counselling Psychology at the University of Alberta (U of A). Dr. Nekolaichuk completed her doctoral internship in psychosocial oncology at the Cross Cancer Institute (1994) and an NCIC Postdoctoral Terry Fox Fellowship in Palliative Care (Division of Palliative Care Medicine, U of A) in 1999.

She has worked in the fields of psychosocial oncology and palliative care for over 20 years. She has had various clinical appointments at the Cross Cancer Institute, Edmonton, Alberta, and, most recently, at the Grey Nuns Community Hospital in Edmonton (Covenant Health). She has also had held academic appointments in the Department of Educational Psychology, Faculty of Education (U of A), Department of Family Medicine (U of A) and the Department of Oncology (U of A). 

Dr. Nekolaichuk is currently a Professor in the Division of Palliative Care Medicine and an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Family Medicine (U of A).  She is a counselling psychologist on the Tertiary Palliative Care Unit, Grey Nuns Community Hospital.

Her clinical and research interests revolve around supporting patients and families through end of life transitions, including understanding the multidimensional aspects of pain, patient-centered symptom assessment, and the experience of hope in palliative and end of life care.



Dr. Nekolaichuk is currently a presenter in the Seminar Series to the Palliative Care Medicine R3s under the topics of Interprofessional: Psychosocial; Interprofessonal: Communication; and Interprofessional: Bereavement.


Hope in Life-Threatening and End-of-Life Contexts
My master’s thesis, a qualitative study, and my doctoral research, predominantly psychometric in nature, focused on understanding the nature of hope within health and illness. I have continued to develop this stream of research, completing a number of collaborative, interdisciplinary studies focusing on hope in palliative care, geriatric psychiatry, population health and older adults.
Future research interests include:
·         developing and evaluating hope-focused interventions for palliative and end of life patients, using the creative arts
·         understanding the role of hope for health care providers in palliative care
·         creating hopeful environments for health care providers, patients and families.

Symptom Assessment in Palliative and End-of-Life Care
Edmonton Classification System for Cancer Pain (ECS-CP). Our work with the pain classification system for cancer patients has resulted in 10 peer-reviewed manuscripts (2005-2014). We have completed an international multicentre validation study of the ECS-CP, involving nine collaborating sites nationally and internationally. We have also completed a study comparing the ECS-CP study definition for stable pain control with patient self-reported goals for pain management (personalized pain goals).

Future research directions include:
·         developing a French translation of the ECS-CP
·         understanding the psychosocial and spiritual aspects of patients’ pain experiences at end of life
·         assessing psychosocial and spiritual dimensions of pain
·         developing non-pharmacological interventions for psychosocial and spiritual dimensions of pain

Edmonton Symptom Assessment System (ESAS). The ESAS was initially developed by Dr. Eduardo Bruera and colleagues, as a brief symptom assessment tool in palliative patients. We have completed three studies focusing on validation of the ESAS, with the subsequent development of a revised version, the ESAS-r. We have completed a French translation study of the ESAS-r, including patients’ perspectives. Future research directions include:
·         examining the role of the ESAS-r in psychosocial and spiritual distress screening and assessment in palliative and end of life care

Research Methods, Measurement and Evaluation in Vulnerable Populations
I have developed a complementary expertise in the fields of measurement, program evaluation and research methodology. As a member of a number of interdisciplinary, collaborative research teams, I have been involved in the following studies:      

  • identification and development of an opioid essential prescription package
  • psychosocial needs, perceived benefits and costs of individual counselling in a psycho-oncology setting
  • validation of a breakthrough pain assessment tool for cancer patients
  • evaluation of a creative arts program on a tertiary palliative care unit
  • evaluation of a patient dignity question on a tertiary palliative care unit