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General practitioners' ‘lived experience’ of assessing psychological distress in cancer patients: an exploratory qualitative study

Carolan, C.M.; Campbell, K.


C.M. Carolan


While psychological distress in cancer patients is common, little is known about how general practitioners (GPs) assess distress. Using semi-structured interviews, a phenomenological study of seven GPs was conducted to explore GPs' experiences of assessing distress. Findings revealed five themes: (1) Being in the Relay Team – receiving and passing the baton: where the assessment of distress was conceptualised as a relay baton passed between a team of health care professionals, with GPs most involved at diagnosis and in the palliative phase. (2) Being in a Relationship: where the doctor–patient relationship was described as a powerful facilitator to assessment. (3) Being Skilled: where GPs perceive they are skilled at assessment adopting a patient-centred approach. (4) Being Challenged – encountering barriers: challenges with assessment were identified regarding the GPs' own emotions, patient related factors and time; the duality of family as both barrier and facilitator was voiced. (5) The Intruder in the Room: where GPs did not use validated screening tools which were viewed as an intruder in the doctor–patient relationship. Further research to objectively assess GPs' skills in distress assessment and attitudes towards the use of screening tools within the cancer care context are merited.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 16, 2015
Online Publication Date Jul 7, 2015
Publication Date 2016-05
Deposit Date Oct 30, 2015
Print ISSN 0961-5423
Electronic ISSN 1365-2354
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 25
Issue 3
Pages 391-401
Keywords Cancer; emotional; psychological;
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