JOURNAL ARTICLE

Meaninglessness in terminally ill cancer patients: a validation study and nurse education intervention trial

Tatsuya Morita, Hisayuki Murata, Kei Hirai, Keiko Tamura, Jun Kataoka, Hideki Ohnishi, Nobuya Akizuki, Yukie Kurihara, Tatsuo Akechi, Yosuke Uchitomi et al.
Journal of Pain and Symptom Management 2007, 34 (2): 160-70
17544250
Recent empirical studies revealed that fostering patients' perception of meaning in their life is an essential task for palliative care clinicians. However, few studies have reported the effects of training programs for nurses specifically aimed at improving skills to relieve the meaninglessness of terminally ill cancer patients, and we have had no specific measurement instruments. The primary aims of this study were 1) to validate measurement tools to quantify nurses' self-reported practice and attitudes toward caring for terminally ill cancer patients feeling meaninglessness and 2) to explore the effects of the five-hour educational workshop focusing on meaninglessness on nurses' self-reported practice, attitudes toward caring for such patients, confidence, burnout, death anxiety, and meaning of life. A quasi-experimental pre-post questionnaire survey was performed on 147 nurses. The questionnaire was distributed before the intervention workshop and one and six months after. The workshop consisted of lecture, role-play, and the exercise of assessment and care planning based on two vignette verbatim records. First, using the first questionnaire sample and an additional sample of 20 nurses for the test-retest examination, we validated a six-item Self-Reported Practice scale, and an eight-item Attitudes Toward Caring for Patients Feeling Meaninglessness scale with three subscales (Willingness to Help, Positive Appraisal, and Helplessness). The nurses also completed a scale to assess confidence in caring for terminally ill patients with meaninglessness, the Maslach Burnout Inventory, the Death Attitude Inventory, the Frommelt Attitudes Toward Care of the Dying scale, the Self-Reported Practice Score in General Communication, and the three pain-related items from the Palliative Care Quiz for Nursing. For the Self-Reported Practice scale and the subscales of the Attitudes Toward Caring for Patients Feeling Meaninglessness scale, the Cronbach's alpha coefficients were 0.63-0.91, and the intra-class correlations were 0.89-0.94. The Self-Reported Practice scale significantly, but moderately, correlated with the Self-Reported Practice Score in General Communication (P=0.41). The Willingness to Help and Helplessness subscales significantly but weakly correlated with the Frommelt scale (P=-0.27, 0.21). Both scales did not correlate or minimally correlated with the Palliative Care Quiz for Nursing (P<0.20). The construct validity was confirmed using factor analysis. At the follow-up, of 147 nurses who participated in this workshop, 91 (62%) and 80 (54%) nurses responded. Self-reported practice and confidence significantly improved, whereas helplessness, emotional exhaustion, and death anxiety significantly decreased. The percentages of nurses who evaluated this program as "useful" or "very useful" were 79% (to understand the conceptual framework in caring for terminally ill patients with meaninglessness), 73% (to help in self-disclosing nurses' personal beliefs, values, and life goals), and 80% (to help in learning how to provide care for patients with meaninglessness). The Self-Reported Practice scale and the Attitudes Toward Caring for Patients Feeling Meaninglessness scale are reliable and valid tools to specifically quantify nurses' self-reported practice and attitudes toward caring for terminally ill cancer patients feeling meaninglessness of life. The five-hour workshop appeared to have a modest but significant beneficial effect on nurse-reported practice, attitudes, and confidence in providing care for terminally ill cancer patients feeling meaninglessness. Further educational intervention trials with control groups are promising.

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