Accuracy of assessment of distress, anxiety, and depression by physicians and nurses in adolescents recently diagnosed with cancer.
ABSTRACT As staff members prioritize medical resources for patients, it is imperative to find out whether their assessments of patients' health status agree with patients' assessments. The degree to which physicians and nurses can identify the distress, anxiety, and depression experienced by adolescents recently diagnosed with cancer was examined here.
Adolescents undergoing chemotherapy (13-19 years, n = 53), physicians (n = 48), and nurses (n = 53) completed a structured telephone interview, 4-8 weeks after diagnosis or relapse, investigating disease and treatment-related distress, anxiety, and depression.
The accuracy of staff ratings of physical distress could be considered acceptable. However, problems of a psychosocial nature, which were frequently overestimated, were difficult for staff to identify. Staff underestimated the distress caused by mucositis and worry about missing school more than they overestimated distress. These aspects were some of the most prevalent and overall worst according to the adolescents. Both physicians and nurses overestimated levels of anxiety and depression. Nurses tended to show higher sensitivity than physicians for distress related to psychosocial aspects of distress, while physicians tended to show higher accuracy than nurses for physical distress.
Staff was reasonably accurate at identifying physical distress in adolescents recently diagnosed with cancer whereas psychosocial problems were generally poorly identified. Thus, the use of staff ratings as a "test" to guide specific support seems problematic. Considering that the accuracy of staff ratings outside a research study is probably lower, identification of and action taken on adolescent problems in relation to cancer diagnosis and treatment need to rely on direct communication.