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Implementing the Fatigue Guidelines at One NCCN Member Institution: Process and Outcomes

Tami Borneman, Barbara F. Piper, Virginia Chih-Yi Sun, Marianna Koczywas, Gwen Uman, and Betty Ferrell

Fatigue, despite being the most common and distressing symptom in cancer, is often unrelieved because of numerous patient, provider, and system barriers. The overall purpose of this 5-year prospective clinical trial is to translate the NCCN Cancer-Related Fatigue Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology and NCCN Adult Cancer Pain Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology into practice and develop a translational interventional model that can be replicated across settings. This article focuses on one NCCN member institution's experience related to the first phase of the NCCN Cancer-Related Fatigue Guidelines implementation, describing usual care compared with evidence-based guidelines. Phase 1 of this 3-phased clinical trial compared the usual care of fatigue with that administered according to the NCCN guidelines. Eligibility criteria included age 18 years or older; English-speaking; diagnosed with breast, lung, colon, or prostate cancer; and fatigue and/or pain ratings of 4 or more on a 0 to 10 screening scale. Research nurses screened all available subjects in a cancer center medical oncology clinic to identify those meeting these criteria. Instruments included the Piper Fatigue Scale, a Fatigue Barriers Scale, a Fatigue Knowledge Scale, and a Fatigue Chart Audit Tool. Descriptive and inferential statistics were used in data analysis. At baseline, 45 patients had fatigue only (≥ 4) and 24 had both fatigue and pain (≥ 4). This combined sample (N = 69) was predominantly Caucasian (65%), female (63%), an average of 60 years old, diagnosed with stage 3 or 4 breast cancer, and undergoing treatment (82%). The most common barriers noted were patients' belief that physicians would introduce the subject of fatigue if it was important (patient barrier); lack of fatigue documentation (professional barrier); and lack of supportive care referrals (system barrier). Findings showed several patient, professional, and system barriers that distinguish usual care from that recommended by the NCCN Cancer-Related Fatigue Guidelines. Phase 2, the intervention model, is designed to decrease these barriers and improve patient outcomes over time, and is in progress.