Survey of Oncology Nurses Finds US Cancer Centers Lack Formal Survivorship Programs

February 10, 2011

While more than 12 million people in the US are cancer survivors, an online survey conducted by the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) has found that only about one-quarter of oncology nurses surveyed had a formal survivorship program in place at their institutions.

While more than 12 million people in the US are cancer survivors, an online survey conducted by the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) has found that only about one-quarter of oncology nurses surveyed had a formal survivorship program in place at their institutions. The survey, published in the January 2011 issue of the ONS journal Oncology Nursing Forum, queried 399 ONS members providing care for patients initially treated more than 1 year previously. It found that the greatest barriers to providing survivorship care were lack of time and insufficient funding (according to 46% of the respondents).

The most commonly provided follow-up survivorship care was scheduling patients for ongoing monitoring (71%), the survey showed. The least common type was providing assistance for employment or legal issues (16%). Among nurses with fewer than 5 years of experience in oncology nursing, about half (49%) said that they lacked sufficient knowledge about survivorship issues, compared with a little over one-third (36%) of nurses with more than 5 years of oncology experience.

The ONS conducted the web-based survey as part of an ongoing program, the “ONS Cancer Survivorship Initiatives Roadmap,” to identify and address resource needs and gaps for nurses in all specialties who may be caring for survivors of adult cancers.  “Our findings point to educational needs about survivorship care for oncology nurses and other healthcare professionals who will care for patients who have had cancer, as well as the need for research in models for delivering survivorship care that address barriers to care identified here,” said ONS research associate and lead author of the study report, Margaret Irwin, RN, MN, PhD.

Coauthors of the article are Jennifer R. Klemp, MA, PhD, MPH, and Catherine Glennon, RN, MHS, BC, CAN, OCN, from the University of Kansas Cancer Center, and Linda M. Frazier, MD, MPH, from the School of Medicine at the University of Kansas.

The Oncology Nursing Society, incorporated in 1975, is a professional organization of more than 35,000 registered nurses and other healthcare professionals committed to excellence in oncology nursing and to leading the transformation of cancer care by initiating and actively supporting educational, legislative, and public awareness efforts to improve the care of people with cancer. ONS provides access to the highest quality educational programs, cancer care resources, research opportunities, and networks for peer support. Visit www.ons.org for more information.