Oral Presentation Clinical Oncology Society of Australia Annual Scientific Meeting 2017

Identifying and responding to anxiety and depression in adult cancer patients: Pilot testing of an on-line communication skills education program targeting challenging conversations for oncology health professionals (#17)

Joanne Shaw 1 , Melanie Price 2 , Brian Kelly 3 , Toni Lindsay 4 , Peter Grimison 4 , Tim Shaw 5 , Heather Shepherd 1 , Jessica Cuddy 1 , Phyllis Butow 1
  1. Psycho-oncology Co-operative Research Group (PoCoG), School of Psychology, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia
  2. University of Sydney, Camperdown, NSW, Australia
  3. School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, NSW, Australia
  4. Chris O'Brien Lifehouse, Sydney, NSW, Australia
  5. Workforce Education & Development Group (WEDG), Faculty of Health Sciences, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia


The Psycho-oncology Co-operative Research Group (PoCoG) developed an evidence-based clinical pathway for the identification and management of anxiety/ depression in adult cancer patients to promote standardization in assessing and responding to affected patients and enhance uptake of psychosocial interventions. A key component to support implementation of the pathway into routine clinical practice is health professional training to facilitate effective communication. The aim of this research was to determine the acceptability of an interactive on-line education program to increase health professionals’ knowledge, and improve skills and confidence in communicating about anxiety and depression screening and referral.


12 oncology nurses participated in a pre-post simulation study. Nurses participated in 3 pre-training standardised medical simulations with an actor/patient to (1) introduce screening to a patient; (2) discuss referral to psychological support; and (3) manage a patient who refuses referral to psychological support. Participants then completed 5 on-line training modules. 3 weeks later nurses participated in 3 post-training medical simulations. Self-reported acceptability of the training and communication confidence related to screening and referral, and communication were assessed by two independent reviewers using a study specific analysis framework.


Nurses reported the training to be relevant to clinical practice. Content, length and format of training were acceptable to participants. Significant improvements in communication were identified pre-post training.


Building workforce skills, knowledge and confidence is crucial for the successful implementation of routine screening in busy cancer settings. This interactive on-line training was acceptable and effective in improving communication.