Objectives: Because oral and pharyngeal cancer mortality in Maryland ranks seventh among states and sixth for black males, a statewide oral cancer needs assessment was conducted. The purposes of this qualitative descriptive study were to obtain indepth information on nurse practitioners' awareness and opinions of oral cancer, oral cancer examinations, and related factors. These findings were intended to supplement a previous survey conducted among Maryland nurse practitioners.
Methods: A professional focus group moderator conducted one face-to-face focus group with 11 nurse practitioners and one telephone focus group with eight nurse practitioners. Criterion-purposeful sampling and qualitative content analysis were employed.
Results: Findings showed that oral cancer is a neglected public health problem and, based on their formal training, not one considered by nurse practitioners to be their responsibility. Although aware of other cancers, none of the nurse practitioners recognized that oral cancer was a public health problem in the state. Numerous barriers were cited for this neglect, including their lack of training and, in one case, unpleasant feelings about examining the mouth. Participants concluded that oral cancer is part of their responsibilities and that they are interested in related continuing education courses.
Conclusions: The focus groups of nurse practitioners provided rich and insightful suggestions for future strategies to help solve the oral cancer problem in Maryland, which supplemented the quantitative mail survey conducted earlier.