Report: Hospitals Need More Cancer Specialist Nurse Practitioners

The University of Southampton recently completed a study in the Journal of Health Services Research and Policy (June 6, 2013), which showed that patients in hospitals receive better care at hospitals that employ more cancer specialist nurses.

How Specialized Nurses in Cancer Care Make the Difference

The research from the study, in particular, showed that patients in better-staffed hospitals of clinical nurse specialists are able to receive adequate emotional support from nurses. The study also used existing data from the 2010 National Cancer Patient Experience Survey.

The study author, Peter Griffiths, said that specialist nurses are “linked to measurable benefits to patients.”  Although the differences in positive experiences of care among those with more cancer specialist nurses versus those without were relatively small (15 percent), these differences are, nevertheless, incredibly important, as patients of well-staffed hospitals reported receiving more emotional support during their cancer treatment.

The Importance of the Nurse-Patient Relationship

The largest difference in the report came from women who were being treated for chemotherapy for breast cancer. Women were 34 percent more likely to report that the hospital staff did everything possible to control side effects of chemotherapy in those hospitals with more clinical nurse specialists.

Griffiths added, “The message from patients on this has been clear for some time – many of them value the support of specialist nurses.”

Allison Richardson, co-author of the study, echoed this sentiment: They [hospitals] need to be aware that any decision to reduce the number of these types of nurses could have a detrimental effect on patients.”

The research backs up what many already knew: that cancer nurse specialists are of the utmost importance to hospitals staffs and for improving cancer patient experiences. The report goes on to say that it is imperative that cancer nurse specialist roles remain protected and that all cancer patients have access to them.