Older cancer patients and patients with a poorer prognosis remember little of the consultation with their doctor or nurse. When their emotions are being picked up, patients remember more, as NIVEL researcher Jesse Jansen shows in her PhD thesis.
Patients with cancer have difficulties recalling what is discussed in the consultation with their doctor or nurse. This is even more difficult for older patients and patients with a poorer prognosis. Older patients remember less then 25% of the information given to them by nurses in educational sessions in preparation for chemotherapy treatment. Not only the patients’ age and prognosis play a role. When the patient’s prognosis is discussed extensively and when more information is presented, patients remember less. Also, when their emotions are being ignored, patients remember less whereas if their emotions are being picked up, they remember more. Jesse Jansen: “it is therefore important that nurses and doctors explicitly ask patients about their information needs and preferences. Furthermore, it is important to respond to signals of emotions and adapt the communication accordingly.”
Partner or children
The presence of their partner or child(ren) may help patients to remember the information. Even though companions have difficulties retaining the information themselves, to some extent they remember different information and thus supplement the patient. However, consultations are longer when companions are present and patients who attend the consultation alone do not necessarily remember less. Jesse Jansen: “this means that patients who would like to be accompanied should be stimulated to do so. Patients who prefer to attend the consultation alone do not necessarily have to be convinced to bring a companion.”
The study looked at Dutch and Australian patients with different types of cancer. The researchers asked them what they remembered from the information the oncologist or nurse had given during the consultation. They compared the answers to recordings of the consultations to assess how much information had been retained.
A corona with female professors only
From 21-24 April 2009, Professor Phyllis Butow (in the picture below in the corner on the left side) from the University of Sydney (Australia) visited NIVEL for the defense of the PhD thesis “Communicating with older cancer patients: impact on information recall” written by Jesse Jansen.
Professor Butow is director of the Centre for Medical Psychology and Evidence-based Medicine (CeMPED) from the University of Sydney. Her scientific work centers around psycho-oncology. As part of her visit Professor Butow gave a masterclass in which she commented on presentations of ongoing studies related to the main themes of her work: communication with older cancer patients; the use of a question prompt for enhancing participation in breast cancer genetic counselling; and, communication and decision making with terminally ill Turkish and Moroccan patients.
Following this masterclass, she gave a presentation in which she elaborated on the challenges and pitfalls of palliative care for migrants with cancer in Australia, a topic related to the work being performed by researchers at NIVEL and others. The conclusion Professor Butow gave in her lecture was that the voices of migrants are often not heard. In addition, she showed that we can learn from communicating with migrants for communicating with patients with a low social economic status.
The highlight of Professor Butow’s visit was her presence during the defense of the thesis of Jesse Jansen which was a historic moment given the fact that, except for the dean, the corona consisted of female (associated) professors only.