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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Is seeing a specialist nurse associated with positive experiences of care? The role and value of specialist nurses in prostate cancer care

Carolyn Tarrant1*, Paul Sinfield2, Shona Agarwal2 and Richard Baker2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Health Sciences, University of Leicester, 2nd Floor, Adrian Building, Leicester, LE1 7RH, UK

2 Department of Health Sciences, University of Leicester, 22-28 Princess Road West, Leicester, LE1 6TP, UK

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BMC Health Services Research 2008, 8:65  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-8-65

Published: 27 March 2008

Abstract

Background

Specialist nurses may play an important role in helping to improve the experiences of patients with prostate cancer, however there is concern that the specialist nurse role is under threat in the UK due to financial pressures in the NHS. This study explored the role and value of specialist nurses in prostate cancer care via a survey and patient interviews.

Methods

This paper reports findings from two studies. A survey of patients from three hospitals across the UK (289/481, 60%), investigated whether patients who saw a specialist nurse had different experiences of information provision and involvement in decision-making, to those who did not. Qualitative interviews were also carried out with 35 men recently tested or treated for prostate cancer, recruited from two hospitals in the UK. Interviews explored patients' views on the role and value of the specialist nurse.

Results

Survey findings indicated that patients who saw a specialist nurse had more positive experiences of receiving written information about tests and treatment, and about sources of advice and support, and were more likely to say they made the treatment decision themselves. In interviews, patients described specialist nurse input in their care in terms of providing information and support immediately post-diagnosis, as well as being involved in ongoing care. Two key aspects of the specialist nurse role were seen as unique: their availability to the patient, and their ability to liaise between the patient and the medical system.

Conclusion

This study indicates the unique role that specialist nurses play in the experience of patients with prostate cancer, and highlights the importance of maintaining specialist nurse roles in prostate cancer care.