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Universidad de Navarra

“When cancer treatment includes the patient’s family, care effectiveness is enhanced”

This research by Cristina Alfaro is part of a project at the University of Navarra which aims to integrate Family Nursing into cancer patient care

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Cristina Alfaro
FOTO: Manuel Castells
11/01/21 11:29 Laura Juampérez

Cristina Alfaro was recently awarded her doctorate in Nursing at the University of Navarra, with a thesis written as part of a project at the School of Nursing and the Clínica Universidad de Navarra that aims to integrate Family Nursing into clinical practice in oncology.

“There is scientific evidence that when a care approach encompasses the family unit, the effectiveness of cancer patient treatment is increased, and the negative effects of the disease are diminished. This results in a positive impact on both patients and their families," Alfaro says.

“This is a long-term project that will be developed in several phases,” explains her supervisor, Ana Canga Armayor, the director of the Adult Nursing Department, who is coordinating the initiative in conjunction with Nuria Esandi from the School of Nursing.

The objective of Cristina Alfaro's thesis was to explore the context of clinical practice in oncology nowadays: “We wanted to know the attitudes and beliefs of nursing professionals working with these patients, to see what importance they attach to including the family in care, and what barriers and facilitating factors they find in practice”.

“To do this, we first had to establish valid and reliable diagnostic tools to assess the field. As they did not exist in the Spanish context, in the first phase of the project we translated English-language tools that had been produced by 13 experts in Family Nursing and management. In the second phase we validated the results with a sample of 263 hospital-based nursing professionals; and finally, 39 nursing professionals from the Clinica Universidad de Navarra tested the three tools we had developed,” adds Alfaro.

High psychological pressure and low autonomy

The results from the validation tools indicated that several factors function as barriers in practice: “The first is that oncology nurses perceive that they are exposed to high psychological demands, while their autonomy in relation to decision-making is low. This generates little motivation to invite the family to participate in care and include this perspective in day-to-day practice. Nurses say they are not trained in family-centered knowledge, skills and attitudes for cancer patient care,” explains Alfaro.

“The results of this study will be the basis for the design of a training program in Family Nursing in the context of Oncology and for the development of strategies to ensure its effective and sustainable implementation in clinical practice,” says Ana Canga, the thesis supervisor.

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