The Relationship of Sick Leave Benefits, Employment Patterns, and Individual Characteristics to Radiation Therapy-Related Fatigue

Patricia Poirier

ONF 2006, 33(3), 593-601. DOI: 10.1188/06.ONF.593-601

Purpose/Objectives: To examine the relationship among sick leave benefits, employment patterns, individual characteristics, and fatigue in patients receiving radiation therapy.

Design: Prospective, longitudinal design.

Setting: A community hospital radiation oncology department.

Sample: 77 patients receiving radiation therapy to the breast, chest, head and neck, pelvis, or prostate. All were employed at the time of diagnosis.

Methods: The Piper Integrated Fatigue Model guided the study. The Revised Piper Fatigue Scale (PFS), Brief Fatigue Inventory, and a single-item scale were used to measure five dimensions of subjective fatigue. Sick leave, employment, individual characteristics, and fatigue were measured at baseline, weekly during treatment, and at one month post-treatment.

Main Research Variables: Employment patterns, availability of sick leave benefits, and fatigue.

Findings: Mean total fatigue scores on the PFS ranged from 0-4.77 at baseline (¯X = 0.46, SD = 0.93), 0-8.77 at the completion of treatment (¯X = 2.84, SD = 2.40), and 0-4.82 at one month post-treatment (¯X= 0.77, SD = 1.20). Side effects, education, living situation, age, treatment site, and work were associated with fatigue along the trajectory of radiation therapy. Study participants who were working at the end of radiation had lower fatigue scores than those who were not. Availability of sick leave benefits was associated with employment patterns during treatment.

Conclusions: Work may have benefits during radiation therapy but may be affected by radiation therapy-related fatigue.

Implications for Nursing: Management of treatment side effects, including fatigue, may help patients remain in the workforce during radiation.

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