Nurse Education for Caregiver Interventions Needs Improvement, Study Shows

More than two thousand nurses who self-assessed their knowledge and confidence in their abilities to identify and intervene with caregivers of patients with cancer shows significant room for improvement.

Family caregivers are considered an important extension of the cancer care workforce. However, they sometimes need assistance and their needs may be overlooked as oncology nurses provide patient-focused care.

A team of researchers, led by Margaret M. Irwin, PhD, RN from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, conducted a survey to describe oncology nurses’ practices, confidence, and knowledge of evidence-based interventions for caregiver strain and burden. A survey email invitation was sent to 14,300 Oncology Nursing Society members, and 2055 (15.9%) responded to the pilot phase I/II surveys.

Nurses reported that they assessed caregivers of patients with cancer for strain and burden in an average of 50% of cases. They also reported that they provided interventions to caregivers about 47% of the time. Nurses’ average confidence level for assessing intervening with caregivers was 51 and 45.6, respectively, both rated on 100-point scales.

Nurses’ average knowledge of evidence-based interventions for caregiver strain and burden was 59% out of a possible 100%. Knowledge calculations showed that nurses tended to correctly identify interventions that were likely to be effective or be recommended for practice, but overestimated the strength of evidence for interventions for which effectiveness was not established. The researchers concluded that an opportunity exists to increase nurses’ knowledge and confidence in assessment and intervention with caregivers.

Study findings can be used in care planning, education, and policy and procedure development.