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Distress Assessment: Practice Change Through Guideline Implementation

Caryl D. Fulcher
Tracy K. Gosselin-Acomb
CJON 2007, 11(6), 817-821 DOI: 10.1188/07.CJON.817-821

Most nurses agree that incorporating evidence into practice is necessary to provide quality care, but barriers such as time, resources, and knowledge often interfere with the actual implementation of practice change. Published practice guidelines are one source to direct practice; this article focuses on the use of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network's Clinical Practice Guidelines for Oncology: Distress Management, which articulate standards and demonstrate assessment for psychosocial distress. Planning for the implementation of the guidelines in a feasibility pilot in a busy radiation oncology clinic is described. Results indicate that adding a distress assessment using the distress thermometer and problem checklist did not present substantial burden to nurses in the clinic or overwhelm the mental health, pastoral care, or oncology social work referral sources with more patients. Understanding distress scores and problems identified by patients helped the nurses direct education interventions and referrals appropriately; improved patient satisfaction scores reflected this.

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