Background: Despite evidence that up to 35% of patients with cancer experience significant distress, access to effective psychosocial care is limited by lack of systematic approaches to assessment, a paucity of psychosocial services, and patient reluctance to accept treatment either because of perceived stigma or difficulties with access to specialist psycho-oncology services due to isolation or disease burden. This paper presents an overview of a randomised study to evaluate the effectiveness of a brief tailored psychosocial Intervention delivered by health professionals in cancer care who undergo focused training and participate in clinical supervision.
Methods/design: Health professionals from the disciplines of nursing, occupational therapy, speech pathology, dietetics, physiotherapy or radiation therapy will participate in training to deliver the psychosocial Intervention focusing on core concepts of supportive-expressive, cognitive and dignity-conserving care. Health professional training will consist of completion of a self-directed manual and participation in a skills development session. Participating health professionals will be supported through structured clinical supervision whilst delivering the Intervention. In the stepped wedge design each of the 5 participating clinical sites will be allocated in random order from Control condition to Training then delivery of the Intervention. A total of 600 patients will be recruited across all sites. Based on level of distress or risk factors eligible patients will receive up to 4 sessions, each of up to 30 minutes in length, delivered face-to-face or by telephone. Participants will be assessed at baseline and 10-week follow-up. Patient outcome measures include anxiety and depression, quality of life, unmet psychological and supportive care needs. Health professional measures include psychological morbidity, stress and burnout. Process evaluation will be conducted to assess perceptions of participation in the study and the factors that may promote translation of learning into practice.
Discussion: This study will provide important information about the effectiveness of a brief tailored psychological Intervention for patients with cancer and the potential to prevent development of significant distress in patients considered at risk. It will yield data about the feasibility of this model of care in routine clinical practice and identify enablers and barriers to its systematic implementation in cancer settings.
Trial registration: ACTRN12610000448044.