Misconceptions about opioid use disorders (OUDs) persist, which can create barriers to quality care and lead to poor outcomes. But the knowledge base of oncology clinicians regarding OUDs is poorly understood.
A group of researchers sought to assess the experience and knowledge of OUDs in patients with cancer among a variety of oncology care providers. The findings from their cross-sectional descriptive study were published in Oncology Nursing Forum.
The researchers recruited 773 participants: 42 physicians, 213 advanced practice providers, and 518 nurses from a single, urban comprehensive cancer care center (and its satellite ambulatory sites) in Ohio. A 29-question survey about knowledge of and experience with OUDs was developed.
Survey responses showed that 52% of all participants had personal experience with substance use disorders — many more of the nurses (53%) and advanced practice providers (55%) than the physicians (29%). However, approximately 68% reported they rarely or occasionally experienced this type of issue with their patient population.
Additionally, 23% of nurses and 17% of advanced practice providers reported not getting any training or education on the issue, compared with 7% of physicians. But the participants did express a desire to learn more; 90% reported that OUDs are a subject of interest and 74% considered the topic of OUDs to be concerning. Almost 40% reported a lack of confidence in addressing OUDs.
Computerized learning modules were identified as the most appealing potential source of information on OUDs, with 59% reporting this as their preferred learning method.
Oncology clinicians, including nurses, can make a difference because of their existing strong foundation. Their time spent and rapport with patients puts them in a good position to recognize and identify substance use disorders, including opioid use disorders, and would benefit from extra training.
“Addiction can be a highly misunderstood and stigmatized chronic illness and may be encountered while providing routine medical care, including cancer screenings, treatment, and survivorship care. Knowledge deficits promote the developments of misconceptions, which may contribute to the development of healthcare stigma,” the researchers noted.
That underlines the importance of better training. “Innovative approaches to address provider knowledge gaps will enhance compassion and understanding, ultimately removing barriers to high-quality care,” the researchers concluded.
Study limitations include its single-center nature, which limits its generalizability, and a lack of diversity among participants (90% were white and 87% were female). Additionally, selection bias could be considered a threat to internal validity, as addiction is a highly sensitive topic among those with personal experience, and they may have opted not to participate.
McNally GA, McLaughlin EM, Rosselet R, Baiocchi R. Interprofessional oncology providers’ experiences and knowledge of opioid use disorders in patients with cancer. Oncol Nurs Forum. 2022 May;49(3):213-221. doi:10.1188/22.onf.213-221