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Nurses’ Attitudes Toward Clinical Trials at a Comprehensive Cancer Center

Caroline B. Burnett
Bogda Koczwara
Lynda Pixley
Leslie E. Blumenson
Yi Ting Hwang
Neal J. Meropol
ONF 2001, 1187-1192 DOI:

Purpose/Objectives: To identify nurses' attitudes and beliefs toward cancer clinical trials and their perceptions about factors influencing patients' participation in these trials.

Design: Descriptive.

Setting: National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center.

Sample: 417 nurses employed at the cancer center were surveyed; 250 (60%) subjects responded.

Methods: 59-item questionnaire.

Main Research Variables: Nurses' attitudes toward clinical trials and perceptions of patient understanding of and influences on participation in clinical trials.

Findings: 96% of nurses reported that participation in clinical trials is important to improving standards of care; only 56% believed that patients should be encouraged to participate in trials if they had cancer. In multiple regression analyses, older age and being a research nurse were significant predictors of positive attitudes toward clinical trials. Work setting also was a significant predictor of nurses' perceptions of patients' understanding of treatment. Overall, nurses reported that an investigational therapy should have at least a 50% chance of success prior to being offered to patients.

Conclusions: Nurses generally reported that clinical trials are important to improve standards of care; however, attitudes concerning patient participation in clinical trials and perceptions of patient understanding differed by work setting. Nurses have high expectations regarding the benefits of investigational therapy.

Implications for Nursing Practice: Nurses play a critical role in the care of participants in cancer clinical trials. Targeted interventions that involve nurses to enhance appropriate patient accrual, patient understanding, and patient decision making should result in improved patient care in centers conducting clinical trials.

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