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Development and Evaluation of Targeted Psychological Skills Training for Oncology Nurses in Managing Stressful Patient and Family Encounters

Lara Traeger

Elyse R. Park

Nora Sporn

Jennifer Repper-DeLisi

Mary Susan Convery

Michelle Jacobo

William F. Pirl

staff education, staff development, psychosocial distress, communication
ONF 2013, 40(4), E327-E336. DOI: 10.1188/13.ONF.E327-E336

Purpose/Objectives: To reduce workplace stress by developing a brief psychological skills training for nurses and to evaluate program feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary efficacy in decreasing burnout and stress.

Design: Intervention development and evaluation.

Setting: Outpatient chemotherapy unit at a comprehensive cancer center.

Sample: 26 infusion nurses and oncology social workers.

Methods: Focus groups were conducted with nurses. Results informed the development and evaluation of training for nurses. Participants completed the Maslach Burnout Inventory and Perceived Stress Scale post-training.

Main Research Variables: Burnout and stress.

Findings: Focus groups indicated strong commitment among nurses to psychosocial care and supported the idea that relationships with patients and families were sources of reward and stress. Stressors included factors that interfered with psychosocial care such as difficult family dynamics, patient behaviors and end-of-life care issues. Psychological skills training was developed to address these stressors. Evaluations suggested that the program was feasible and acceptable to nurses. At two months, participants showed reductions in emotional exhaustion (p = 0.02) and stress (p = 0.04).

Conclusions: Psychological skills training for managing difficult encounters showed feasibility, acceptability, and potential benefit in reducing emotional exhaustion and stress.

Implications for Nursing: Brief training that targets sources of clinical stress may be useful for nurses in outpatient chemotherapy units.

Knowledge Translation: Specific stressors in relationships with patients and families present challenges to nurses' therapeutic use of self. Targeted psychological skills training may help nurses problem-solve difficult encounters while taking care of themselves. System-level strategies are needed to support and promote training participation.

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