Pediatric narrative oncology: interprofessional training to promote empathy, build teams, and prevent burnout

J Support Oncol. Sep-Oct 2008;6(7):307-12.


The aim of this study was to test the feasibility and effectiveness of providing narrative training to a mixed group of doctors, nurses, social workers, and child life therapists on a pediatric oncology service for the purpose of promoting empathy, building teams, and preventing burnout. All staff members were invited to attend a weekly narrative training seminar for 6 weeks. During these seminars, participants wrote about their attachment to patients, their emotional responses to patients and families, and their attempts to imagine clinical situations from the perspectives of patients and family members; participants then read aloud their narratives to one another during a facilitated discussion. Baseline and post-intervention assessments used the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) and the Stressor Scale for Pediatric Oncology Nurses (SSPON), and a focus group was convened to assess qualitative outcomes at the study's conclusion. Nineteen staff members who consented and participated in the training completed all baseline and postintervention measures.THE IRI subset of Perspective Taking improved at a statistically significant level (P = 0.029), and the Empathic Concern subset trended toward significant improvement (P= 0.056). Reported stress levels on the SSPON increased at varying rates over the course of the study. Focus group reports indicated that teamwork and resilience improved in the 6 weeks of the seminar. A narrative training approach aimed at an inter-disciplinary group of healthcare professionals has promise as a means to address some of the most difficult aspects of pediatric oncology care facing clinicians.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Burnout, Professional / prevention & control*
  • Child
  • Empathy*
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations*
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Oncology Service, Hospital*
  • Patient Care Team*
  • Pediatrics*
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control
  • Writing