Psychosocial Distress Screening in Oncology: A Qualitative Study of Health Professionals. (#162)
Objective: Screening for psychosocial distress is a recommended standard of care for oncology patients. Although NHMRC guidelines exist for the psychosocial care of adults with cancer, little is known about the uptake and dissemination of these guidelines. Our research aims to evaluate current psychosocial screening practices at the Calvary Mater Hospital, the reasons given for these practices, and staff knowledge of the NHMRC guidelines.
Methods: A retrospective audit was conducted with 26 inpatient records from the medical oncology ward at the Mater Hospital, looking at the quality of psychosocial screening done on the ward. 57 doctors and nurses working with cancer patients at the Mater Hospital were invited to complete a staff survey to explore current screening practices, attitudes towards screening, and knowledge of NHMRC guidelines.
Results: Overall, there was a response rate of 40% for the staff survey. 96% of respondents felt that it was important to ask patients about their psychosocial well being, but only half reported routinely screening their patients for distress. Direct questioning and observation were the two most commonly reported methods of distress screening, with only 9% reporting use of a standard screening tool. 48% of staff members were not familiar at all with the NHMRC guidelines. From the audit of patient notes, risk factors for distress were consistently documented (81%) but only 35% contained documentation on the patient’s general psychological wellbeing.
Conclusions: Although routine psychosocial screening for distress is widely accepted as best practice, our results show that this is not always the case. Knowledge of NHMRC guidelines and screening practices were generally poor. Further research is required into dissemination and validation of the NHMRC guidelines, as well as the impact on patient outcomes if a screening tool were to be routinely included in patient care.