Responding to Challenging Interactions With Families: A Training Module for Inpatient Oncology Nurses

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Introduction: Sustaining the well-being of the caregiving family is a critical agenda in cancer care. In the multidisciplinary team, nurses often serve as a bridge between the family and oncology team. Evidence suggests that dealing with difficult family dynamics is a common source of stress for oncology nurses, yet nurses typically receive very little guidance on how to achieve an effective partnership with families under these circumstances. We report on the application and preliminary evaluation of a new training module for improving nurses’ skills in responding collaborative to challenging family situations. Method: Training was delivered to 282 inpatient oncology nurses at a comprehensive cancer center over 2 years. Posttraining surveys measured perceived changes in confidence working with families, as well as the utility and relevance of this training. A 6-month follow-up survey measured continued use of skills. Results: Of the nurses, 75%–90% reported that the skills learned were useful and relevant to their setting. Retrospective pre–post ratings suggested increased confidence in managing stressful encounters with families. Discussion: Further investigation is needed to observe how nurses transport these skills into their practice settings and to understand the role of the nurse-as-family champion within the larger multidisciplinary team.

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