Chemotherapy Education Prior to the First Day of Therapy Improves Patient Knowledge

October 2016 Vol 7, No 9
Shari M. Bates, BSN, RN, OCN, CCM
UW Medicine Valley Medical Center, Cancer Support Services, Renton, WA

Background: Cancer patients experience high rates of anxiety connected to their diagnosis and treatments.1 Education related to side effect management strategies, treatment day expectations, and the infusion environment decrease fear and anxiety in patients receiving chemotherapy for the first time.2 Chemotherapy education at UW Medicine Valley Medical Center has been unstructured and occurred either at the first infusion appointment or in the oncology office. Infusion center nursing staff reported patient knowledge gaps and high anxiety levels at first-time chemotherapy infusion appointments.

Objective: This study was designed to identify changes in patient knowledge and anxiety levels following implementation of planned prechemotherapy education sessions.

Methods: Prechemotherapy education sessions were developed to provide patients with a 1-hour, one-on-one appointment with an oncology infusion nurse. Patients were given standardized literature and scheduled for an education appointment on a day prior to, and separate from, the first infusion day. Preimplementation and postimplementation patient surveys were conducted. Survey participants were cancer patients who received chemotherapy at UW Medicine Valley Medical Center’s outpatient infusion center.

Results: Fifty-one chemotherapy patients were surveyed prior to program implementation. To date, 35 patients have been surveyed following participation in a prechemotherapy education session. The patients who attended education sessions rated their knowledge of chemotherapy, side effect management, and healthcare team support significantly higher in all measured categories. Prior to implementation, 6% of respondents reported their anxiety as overwhelming, whereas postimplementation, 0% of patients reported feeling overwhelmed. Median and mode anxiety levels, moderate and high, respectively, remained the same.

Conclusions: Nurse-led prechemotherapy education sessions prior to the first infusion day increased patient self-management knowledge and impacted anxiety levels. Continuation of prechemotherapy sessions may reveal additional benefits. Therefore, data review is warranted to examine the following relationships: planned prechemotherapy education and psychosocial distress screening scores; increased session structure and education consistency; and appointment time and patient satisfaction.


  1. National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines). Distress Management. Version 1.2016.
  2. Garcia S. The effects of education on anxiety levels in patients receiving chemotherapy for the first time: an integrative review. Clin J Oncol Nurs. 2014;18:516-521.
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Last modified: November 15, 2022

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