Telephone follow-up after treatment for breast cancer: views and experiences of patients and specialist breast care nurses

J Clin Nurs. 2010 Oct;19(19-20):2916-24. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2702.2010.03197.x.


Aims and objectives: To explore the views of patients and specialist breast care nurses on telephone follow-up after treatment for breast cancer.

Background: A recent randomised controlled trial demonstrated that nurse-led telephone follow-up led to high levels of patient satisfaction with no physical or psychological detriment. This study aimed to explore in more detail the views of patients randomised to telephone follow-up and the nurses who conducted telephone appointments.

Design: Qualitative.

Method: Individual interviews with 28 patients and four specialist breast care nurses. Content analysis was used to analyse the interview data.

Results: Telephone follow-up was convenient for patients and provided continuity of care. Speaking on the telephone was perceived as a more 'normal' activity than attending hospital outpatient clinics. A structured approach was appreciated, instilling feelings of confidence that all questions had been asked and no errors had been made. Specialist nurses emphasised the high level of skill required to deliver the intervention and perceived that the telephone approach was well able to meet the individual needs of patients.

Conclusions: Positive views on telephone follow-up were reported. An experienced and skilled practitioner, with effective communication skills, is required to deliver the intervention and a period of training is recommended. Nurse-led telephone interventions have a broader applicability to other disease conditions, although more work is needed to develop appropriate interventions and evaluate their effectiveness.

Relevance to clinical practice: Nurses at advanced levels of practice are uniquely placed to deliver such complex interventions. However, a period of initial training with effective peer support and channels for ongoing feedback are essential for administering an intervention that relies on audio rather than visual cues.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / nursing*
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology
  • Continuity of Patient Care
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Nurses / psychology*
  • Specialties, Nursing
  • Telephone*