Screening for distress and supportive care needs during the initial phase of the care process: a qualitative description of a clinical pilot experiment in a French cancer center



Objective: To provide a qualitative description of a clinical pilot experiment in a French cancer center, conducted by a nurse after the treatment decision consultation attended by new cancer patients during the initial phase of the care process.

Methods: The Psychological Distress Thermometer (PDS) and a problem checklist were administered to 255 patients before nurse consultation, helping her to manage the clinical interview, explore patient's distress and supportive care needs, and finally refer the patients in need to the required Supportive Care units.

Results: Patients were primarily referred to the social service unit (35% patients), followed by the physiotherapy unit (23.9%) and the psycho-oncology unit (19.6% of patients). In cases of significant distress (43% patients with PDS>3), the percentage of patients referred to the psychosocial units increased (44% referred to the Social Unit, 35% to the Psycho-Oncology Unit). However, the main interest of our screening procedure resides in its qualitative and didactic dimension, based on clinical training and cooperation with healthcare professionals during the process of investigating patients' distress and their supportive care needs. Difficulties and limitations are also described.

Conclusions: This first clinical experiment conducted among dedicated nurses involved in a Therapeutic Decision Consultation in a French cancer center has provided evidence in support of the idea that non-specialist professionals are able to identify patients' distress and their Supportive Care needs (particularly in the psychosocial field) provided that they have received appropriate training. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.