Factors influencing the use by radiation therapists of cancer symptom guides: a mixed-methods study

C. Ludwig, J. Renaud, L. Barbera, M. Carley, C. Henry, L. Jolicoeur, C. Kuziemsky, A. Patry, D. Stacey


Background Radiation therapists play an important role in helping patients to safely manage and triage potentially life-threatening symptoms. The purpose of the present study was to assess factors influencing the use by radiation therapists of evidence-informed symptom practice guides for patients experiencing cancer treatment–related symptoms.

Methods In a mixed-methods descriptive study guided by the Knowledge-to-Action framework, interviews and a barriers survey were conducted. Two independent reviewers conducted a content analysis of interview transcripts. Barriers survey data were analyzed using frequency distributions and univariate descriptive statistics. Open-ended data from the surveys underwent content analysis and were triangulated with interview findings.

Results Of 90 radiation therapists approached, 58 completed the survey (64%), and 14 were interviewed. Of the 98% who reported providing symptom management to patients undergoing radiation treatment, 53% used evidence-informed practice guidelines. Radiation therapists had moderate moral norms (4.6 of 7) and beliefs about the consequences of using costars (pan Canadian Oncology Symptom Triage and Remote Support) practice guides (4.8), but neutral intention (3.4) and beliefs about their own capabilities (3.9). Environmental barriers included lack of time (2.0), lack of access (2.5), and neutral organizational support (3.0). Radiation therapists identified a need for training (5.5). Common unique barriers to practice guide use were lack of time during radiation treatments, unclear fit with scope of practice, disparate focus on site-specific symptoms, and lack of medication knowledge.

Conclusions The symptom practice guides were perceived by the radiation therapists to benefit patients, enhance their own knowledge of symptom management, and promote consistent practice. Additional work is required to identify the scope of practice of radiation therapists within the interprofessional team.


Symptom management; radiation therapists; radiographers; clinical practice guidelines

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3747/co.26.4198

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ISSN: 1198-0052 (Print) ISSN: 1718-7729 (Online)