Oncology nurses in the control group were given a list of reputable websites on physical activity and cancer. The learning modules group completed 6 online learning modules. The modules included quizzes on physical activity for cancer survivors, general physical activity principles, and motivational interviewing. The Canadian researchers examined how many cancer survivors were counseled and self-efficacy for physical activity counseling. They also assessed knowledge of physical activity, and perceived barriers and benefits of physical activity counseling.

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Online learning interventions previously have been found to be effective for improving oncology nurses’ counseling skills for addressing spiritual counseling and pain management. However, changing nurses’ behaviors related to pain assessment and spiritual counseling may be different than changing their behaviors as they relate to physical activity counseling, according to the authors.                                                       

Counseling patients about physical activity may require more complex interactions. The researchers theorize that cultural attitudes about physical activity may be important factors in counseling. Addressing workplace culture and what priority it places on physical education counseling may also be necessary.

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“This is an important topic that nurses should discuss with cancer survivors as it can lead to better rehabilitation after cancer treatment and it may lead to improved overall health for the patient. However, this may not always be a topic that comes first when we are educating patients, but should be an important part of our teaching after treatment and when thinking about survivorship. Nurses may feel that they have too many competing tasks to complete with patients,” said McDannald.