An Education Program Helps Nurses Talk to Patients about Oncotype DX Breast Recurrence Score®

Specialist breast cancer nurses frequently engage in difficult conversations with their patients, including discussions about recurrence risk and treatment. A patient’s Oncotype DX Breast Recurrence Score® may have implications for treatment options, benefits and risks chemotherapy, and patient well-being and lifestyle. A study that will be presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium discussed the use of an education program to help specialist breast cancer nurses improve this communication with patients.

This six-hour communication workshop included two didactic presentations. The first highlighted data underpinning Oncotype DX® risk scores and cutoffs; the second highlighted the psychology of risk, including activities pertaining to numeracy, communication, and uncertainty tolerance. Participants were divided into small groups in which they watched one of two videos depicting oncologists discussing with patients their recurrence score results; the nurses were then able to meet the simulated patient who was now in the clinic one week after the discussion and wanted to continue the conversation about their test result. The nurses filled out 11-item pre- and post-workshop questionnaires to gauge their self-confidence in facilitating these conversations.

Overall, 69 specialist breast cancer nurses took part in the workshop, all of whom had significant and positive improvements in all 11 issues identified on the questionnaire. Attendees found the workshops informative (9.6/10), useful (9.5/10), and enjoyable (9.6/10); 99% of attendees would recommend it to their colleagues.

“Nurses can play an important role [in] helping patients’ decision-making; they are also usually fearful of role-play, but most found the innovative practical sessions especially helpful,” the authors concluded. “Our results showed that improved self-confidence, a key element required to lead to a transfer of communication skills into a clinic setting, was achieved in this six-hour workshop.”