Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 893–901 | Cite as

Patient and family experiences with accessing telephone cancer treatment symptom support: a descriptive study

  • Dawn StaceyEmail author
  • Esther Green
  • Barbara Ballantyne
  • Myriam Skrutkowski
  • Angela Whynot
  • Lucie Tardif
  • Joy Tarasuk
  • Meg Carley
  • For the Pan-Canadian Oncology Symptom Triage and Remote Support (COSTaRS) Team
Original Article



Assess patient and family member experiences with telephone cancer treatment symptom support.


Descriptive study guided by the Knowledge-to-Action Framework. Patients and family members who received telephone support for a cancer treatment symptom within the last month at one of three ambulatory cancer programs (Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec) were eligible. An adapted Short Questionnaire for Out-of-hours Care instrument was analyzed with univariate statistics.


Of 105 participants, 83 % telephoned about themselves and 17 % for a family member. Participants received advice over the telephone (90 %) and were advised to go to emergency (13 %) and/or the clinic (9 %). Two left a message and were not called back. Participants were “very satisfied” with the manner of nurse or doctor (58 %), explanation about problem (56 %), treatment/advice given (54 %), way call was handled (48 %), getting through (40 %), and wait time to speak to a nurse or doctor (38 %). The proportion “dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” for the above items was 4, 5, 9, 11, 10, and 14 %, respectively. Suggestions were shorter call back time, weekend access to telephone support, more knowledgeable advice on self-care strategies, more education at discharge, and shared documentation on calls to avoid repetition and improve continuity.


Most patients and family members who responded to the survey were satisfied with telephone-based cancer treatment symptom support. Programs could improve telephone support services by providing an estimated time for callback, ensuring that nurses have access to and use previous call documentation, and enhancing patient education on self-care strategies for managing and triaging treatment-related symptoms.


Patient satisfaction Telephone Oncology Symptoms Self-management 



We would like to thank the volunteers and staff members who assisted with survey collection. The authors gratefully acknowledge the COSTaRS team: Debra Bakker, RN, PhD, Lorna Butler, RN, PhD, Kim Chapman, RN, MScN, Joanne Cumminger, RN, BScN, CON(C), Greta Cummings, RN, PhD, Margaret Harrison, RN, PhD, Doris Howell, RN, PhD, Erin Kolari, RN, BScN, CVAA, Craig Kuziemsky, PhD, Gail Macartney, RN(EC), PhD, ACNP, CON(C), Katie Nichol, RN, MScN, CON(C), Brenda Sabo, RN, MA, PhD, Andréanne Saucier, RN, MSCINF, Tara Shaw, RN, CON(C), Ann Syme, RN, PhD, Carolyn Taylor, RN, MSA, CON(C), and Tracy Truant, RN, PhD(C).

Conflict of interest

This study was funded by a grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (#KAL 122159). The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare. Dawn Stacey has full control of all primary data and agrees to allow the journal to review the data if requested.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dawn Stacey
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Esther Green
    • 3
  • Barbara Ballantyne
    • 4
  • Myriam Skrutkowski
    • 5
  • Angela Whynot
    • 6
  • Lucie Tardif
    • 5
  • Joy Tarasuk
    • 6
  • Meg Carley
    • 2
  • For the Pan-Canadian Oncology Symptom Triage and Remote Support (COSTaRS) Team
  1. 1.School of Nursing, University of OttawaOttawaCanada
  2. 2.Ottawa Hospital Research InstituteOttawaCanada
  3. 3.Canadian Partnership Against CancerTorontoCanada
  4. 4.Northeast Cancer Center, Health Sciences NorthSudburyCanada
  5. 5.Cancer Care Mission, McGill University Health Centre Research Institute, Montreal General HospitalMontrealCanada
  6. 6.Capital HealthHalifaxCanada

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