A comparison of nurses’ and physicians’ perception of cancer treatment burden based on reported adverse events

Lee, Shing M.; Miao, Jieling; Wu, Ruby; Unger, Joseph M.; Cheung, Ken; Hershman, Dawn L.

Cancer treatments are associated with a multitude of adverse events (AEs). While both nurses and physicians are involved in patient care delivery and AE assessment, very few studies have examined the differences between nurses’ and physicians’ reporting and perception of AEs. An approach was recently proposed to assess treatment burden based on reported AEs from the physician’s perspective. In this paper, we use this approach to evaluate nurses’ perception of burden, and compare nurses’ and physicians’ assessment of the overall and relative burden of AEs.

AE records for 334 cancer patients from a randomized clinical trial conducted by the SWOG Cancer Research Network were evaluated by 14 nurses at Columbia University Medical Center. Two nurses were randomly selected to assign a burden score from 0 to 10 based on their impression of the global burden of the captured AEs. These nurses did not interact directly with the patients. Scores were compared to previously obtained physicians scores using paired T-test and Kappa statistic. Severity scores for individual AEs were obtained using mixed-effects models with nurses assessments, and were qualitatively compared to physicians’.

Given the same AEs, nurses’ and physicians’ perception of the burden of AEs differed. While nurses generally perceived the overall burden of AEs to be only slightly worse compared to physicians (mean average VAS score of 5.44 versus 5.14), there was poor agreement in the perception of AEs that were in mild to severe range. The percent agreement for a moderate or worse AE was 64% with a Kappa of 0.34. Nurses also assigned higher severity scores to symptomatic AEs compared to physicians (p < 0.05), such as gastrointestinal (4.77 versus 4.14), hemorrhage (5.07 versus 4.14), and pain (5.17 versus 4.14).

These differences in the perception of burden of AEs can lead to different treatment decisions and symptom management strategies. Thus, having provider consistency, training, or a collaborative approach in follow-up care between nurses and physicians is important to ensure continuity in care delivery. Moreover, estimating overall burden from both physicians’ and nurses’ perspective, and comparing them may be useful for deciding when collaborations are warranted.


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Health and Quality of Life Outcomes

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Published Here
December 20, 2022


Perception of burden, Adverse event burden assessment, Provider consistency