Using the theory of planned behavior to understand health professionals' attitudes and intentions to refer cancer patients for psychosocial support

Psychooncology. 2012 Mar;21(3):316-23. doi: 10.1002/pon.1897. Epub 2010 Dec 20.


Objective: To describe oncology professionals' patterns of referral to existing community and psychosocial support services, including complementary therapies utilizing the theory of planned behavior (TPB).

Methods: An exploratory cross-sectional survey of 72 oncology professionals including nurses (73.6%), medical practitioners (19.4%) and allied health professionals (6.9%) from health institutions in South Australia assessed past referral patterns, perceived attitudes of peers, control over and attitudes toward, referral, past referral practices and how these impact on intention to refer.

Results: Referral to support services such as a cancer helpline, allied health or complementary services was infrequent. A hierarchical regression entering awareness, past referral and the TPB variables (attitude, subjective norm and perceived control) explained 51% of the variance on the outcome 'intention to refer'. Barriers to referral for support included lack of local services for remote patients, and financial considerations.

Conclusion: Interventions with health professionals should focus on the development of a culture, which recognizes the importance of addressing a breadth of patient needs across the cancer trajectory. Education and support for health professionals is required to ensure that they feel comfortable discussing support needs and referring to appropriate support services.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intention*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Practice Patterns, Nurses'
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Psychological Theory
  • Referral and Consultation*
  • Social Support*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires