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Assessment of Radiation Oncology Nurse Education in the United States

Marina Moskalenko, Jennifer Zaccone, Cheryl A. Fiscelli, Jennifer Wieworka, Roberta Anderson, Amanda Choflet, Shanel Martens, Karyn A. Goodman, Daniel W. Golden,

Abstract: Purpose Nurses in the radiation oncology (RO) clinic have a critical role in the management of patients receiving radiation therapy. However, limited data exist regarding the exposure of nurses to RO during training and the current educational needs of practicing RO nurses. This study assesses nurses' prior RO education, participation in national training efforts, and perceived educational needs. Methods and Materials A web-based survey using a 5-point Likert-type scale was distributed to RO nurses at 3 academic medical centers. Questions focused on prior education experiences, clinical areas of strength/weakness, and perceived value of future educational interventions. Likert-type scores are reported as median (interquartile range), and a Kruskal-Wallis test was conducted to assess for significant differences in responses. Results The survey response rate was 39 of 54 (72%). Respondents were 90% female and trained at 30 nursing schools in 17 states. Only 5% of nurses reported a curriculum in nursing school with RO content, and nearly all (97%) received their RO education on the job. Forty-one percent of nurses completed the Oncology Nursing Society radiation therapy certificate course, and only 5% completed the American Society for Radiation Oncology nursing module. Nurses felt most confident in the overall management of patients with breast (4 [3-4]), prostate (4 [3-5]), and central nervous system (4 [3-4]) cancers and least confident for lymphoma (3 [2-4]), gynecologic (3 [2-4]), and head and neck cancers (3 [2-4]; P< .01). Nurses rated didactic lectures from physicians (5 [3-5]), shadowing RO residents (4 [3-5]), and working with simulation therapists (4 [3-5]) as valuable components to include in a training curriculum (P = .08). Conclusions Nursing school exposure to RO is limited, and only a minority of RO nurses complete RO-specific training or certification available from national organizations. This study identifies several areas of perceived clinical nursing strengths and weaknesses that can be used to inform the design of future RO nursing educational programs.
Keywords: radiation therapy / nurses complete / RO education / Nurse Education / curriculum / management of patients / survey

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