Journal article

Training Intervention for Health Care Staff in the Provision of Existential Support to Patients With Cancer : A Randomized, Controlled Study


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Publication Details

Subtitle: A Randomized, Controlled Study

Author list: Danielson, Ella;Melin-Johansson, Christina

Publication year: 2013

Start page: 785

End page: 794

Number of pages: 10

ISSN: 0885-3924


View additional information: View in Web of Science



When a patient receives a cancer diagnosis, existential issues become more compelling. Throughout the illness trajectory, patients with cancer are cared for in oncology wards, by home care teams or in hospices. Nurses working with these patients are sometimes aware of the patients existential needs but do not feel confident when discussing these issues.


To determine the effects of a training intervention, where the focus is on existential issues and nurses perceived confidence in communication and their attitude toward caring for dying patients.


This was a randomized, controlled trial with a training intervention comprising theoretical training in existential issues combined with individual and group reflection. In total, 102 nurses in oncology and hospice wards and in palliative home care teams were randomized to a training or non-training group. Primary outcomes, confidence in communication, and attitude toward the care of dying patients were measured at baseline, immediately after the training, and five to six months later.


Confidence in communication improved significantly in the training group from baseline (before the training) to both the first and second follow-up, that is, immediately after the training and five months later. The attitude toward caring for the dying did not improve in the training group.


This study shows that short-term training with reflection improves the confidence of health care staff when communicating, which is important for health care managers with limited resources. Further studies are needed to explore how patients experience the communication skills of health care staff after such training.


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