Telephone Calls by Individuals With Cancer

Marie Flannery

Leanne McAndrews

Karen F. Stein

ambulatory care, patient-reported symptoms
ONF 2013, 40(5), 464-471. DOI: 10.1188/13.ONF.464-471

Purpose/Objectives: To describe symptom type and reporting patterns found in spontaneously initiated telephone calls placed to an ambulatory cancer center practice.

Design: Retrospective, descriptive.

Setting: Adult hematology oncology cancer center.

Sample: 563 individuals with a wide range of oncology diagnoses who initiated 1,229 telephone calls to report symptoms.

Methods: Raw data were extracted from telephone forms using a data collection sheet with 23 variables obtained for each phone call, using pre-established coding criteria. A literature-based, investigator-developed instrument was used for the coding criteria and selection of which variables to extract.

Main Research Variables: Symptom reporting, telephone calls, pain, and symptoms.

Findings: A total of 2,378 symptoms were reported by telephone during the four months. At least 10% of the sample reported pain (38%), fatigue (16%), nausea (16%), swelling (12%), diarrhea (12%), dyspnea (10%), and anorexia (10%). The modal response was to call only one time and to report only one symptom (55%).

Conclusions: Pain emerged as the symptom that most often prompted an individual to pick up the telephone and call. Although variation was seen in symptom reporting, an interesting pattern emerged with an individual reporting on a solitary symptom in a single telephone call.

Implications for Nursing: The emergence of pain as the primary symptom reported by telephone prompted educational efforts for both in-person clinic visit management of pain and prioritizing nursing education and protocol management of pain reported by telephone.

Knowledge Translation: Report of symptoms by telephone can provide nurses unique insight into patient-centered needs. Although pain has been an important focus of education and research for decades, it remains a priority for individuals with cancer. A wide range in symptom reporting by telephone was evident.

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