As distress in cancer patients is common, screening for concerns and symptoms has been recommended as best practice cancer care. In two regional cancer centres, routine screening is administered by radiation therapists (RTs) during an education session before planning appointments.
We evaluated the impact of providing communication skills training focusing on eliciting and responding to emotional cues (RT Prepare) on RTs’ confidence and knowledge in recognising signs of anxiety/depression, providing psychosocial support and administering an electronic screening tool (PROMPT-Care) to patients.
A single-arm, pre and post-test study design was implemented, with all RTs receiving the intervention. Consenting RTs completed three paper-based surveys: pre-intervention (T1), immediately post-intervention (T2), and three months post-intervention (T3). Surveys contained 36 questions assessing barriers, knowledge, confidence and role when using the PROMPT-Care tool. Analyses were conducted in SPSS V26, using Cochran’s Q tests to compare outcomes over time. Significance level 0.05, values adjusted by Bonferroni correction for multiple tests.
Of 39 RTs who completed training, 37 (95%) completed T1 and 36 completed surveys at all three timepoints. Significant post-intervention improvements in confidence from T1 to T3 included: 30% of RTs reported an increase in confidence when describing the PROMPT-Care tool to patients (p=0.002); 23% increase for discussing psychosocial issues (p=0.014); 33% increase in recognising signs of anxiety/depression (p<0.001). Further significant improvements were also noted across variables, with a range of 17-27% increase in participants’ knowledge of the tool and confidence when dealing with varying emotions.
The RT Prepare intervention was effective in increasing RTs’ confidence and knowledge when administering the PROMPT-Care screening tool, with effect sustained 3 months post-intervention. The intervention potentially provides an opportunity to advance the role of RTs within the psychosocial domain, incorporating them as part of a psychosocial model of care within radiation oncology.