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How Do You Prefer Orientation/Education about Cancer?

The following is a review written by a nurse, Valerie R. Vestal, MSN, FNP, RN, at our institution on a study related to orientation for individuals with cancer and their primary support person.

Because of the unfamiliar surroundings and unpredictable events first time visits to a cancer center may contribute to added stress and anxiety for patients and their support system. Currently research is limited to studying the impact of face to face orientation programs and no one has explored the impact of alternative orientation programs.

On the other hand the authors of one study wanted to decide if the format of a cancer orientation program plays a role in increased levels of satisfaction and decreased anxiety for newly diagnosed cancer patients and their support person. The authors believed that providing patients with knowledge about their environment and available resources will decrease potential stress and enhance satisfaction. The researchers randomly assigned (like a flip of a coin) 428 patient and their caregivers from the National Cancer Institute into one of four orientation arms: 1. class instruction, 2. drop-in, 3. mail home or 4. standard orientation

Patients who were newly registered in the Division of Medical Oncology were asked if they would participate if they were at least 18 years of age, able to read and write English, making their fist visit as patients to the Division of Medical Oncology, had a biopsy –proven cancer diagnosis and a minimum of 72 hours between patient registration and physician consultation.

The secondary target group was the primary support person for each person with cancer. The support person had to: be at least 18 years of age, able to read and write English, and they had to be identified by the patient as the primary support person accompanying them to appointments. Patients were able to participate in the study regardless if their support person participated; however, a support person was not eligible to participate if the patient was not enrolled in the study.

The intervention required that participants receive a orientation video and a booklet via different delivery methods. The standard group did not receive an orientation booklet or video. All participants were provided with a pre-intervention and a three month follow up survey to evaluate anxiety, awareness and use of resources, coping, and understanding of the cancer center.

The overall number of patients who completed all aspects of each arm was very low. Mail (n=23), Control (n=18), drop in (n=7) and class (n=6). Due to low participation the authors opted not to report findings on the class and drop-in orientation. Results indicated that the mail group reported higher satisfaction with the cancer center. The support person acknowledged benefits to a lesser degree than the patients.

The researchers concluded that the mailing orientation materials was the superior delivery method and could be linked to improving patient outcomes and decreasing anxiety.

This study raises a goo question - how do you prefer to receive orientation and education about cancer? Do you like reading materials or videos/DVDs? Do you like it in small increments or all at 1 meeting. Be sure to let you health care provider let you know how you liketo be educated.

Deshler, A. M., Fee-Schroeder, K. C., Dowdy, J. L., & Mettler, T. A. (2006). A patient orientaton program at a comphrensive cancer center. Oncology Nursing Forum, 33(3), 569-578.
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