Title

Multilevel barriers to communication in pediatric oncology: Clinicians' perspectives

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Communication serves several functions in pediatric oncology, but communication deficiencies persist. Little is known about the broad spectrum of barriers contributing to these deficiencies. Identifying these barriers will support new strategies to improve communication. METHODS: The authors performed 10 focus groups on perceived communication barriers with nurses, nurse practitioners, physicians, and psychosocial professionals across 2 academic institutions. They analyzed transcripts by adapting a multilevel framework from organizational psychology. RESULTS: The authors identified 6 levels of barriers to communication from the clinicians' perspectives: individual, team, organization, collaborating hospital, community, and policy. Individual barriers were subdivided into clinician characteristics, family characteristics, or characteristics of the clinician-family interaction. Within each level and sublevel, several manifestations of barriers were identified. Some barriers, such as a lack of comfort with difficult topics (individual), cultural differences (individual), a lack of a shared team mental model (team), and time pressure (organization), manifested similarly across professions and institutions. Other barriers, such as a need for boundaries (individual), intimidation or embarrassment of family (individual), unclear roles and authority (team), and excessive logistical requirements (policy), manifested differently across professions. With the exception of collaborating hospitals, participants from all professions identified barriers from each level. Physicians did not discuss collaborating hospital barriers. CONCLUSIONS: Nurses, nurse practitioners, physicians, and psychosocial professionals experience communication barriers at multiple levels, which range from individual- to policy-level barriers. Yet their unique clinical roles and duties can lead to different manifestations of some barriers. This multilevel framework might help clinicians and researchers to identify targets for interventions to improve communication experiences for families in pediatric oncology. LAY SUMMARY: Clinicians and families experience many barriers to communication in pediatric oncology. The authors performed 10 focus groups with 59 clinicians who cared for children with cancer. In these focus groups, barriers to effective communication were discussed. In this article, the authors report on an analysis of the responses. Six levels of barriers to communication were found: individual, team, organization, collaborating hospital, community, and policy. With an understanding of these barriers, interventions can be developed to target these barriers in hopes of improving communication for parents and patients in pediatric oncology.

Publication Title

Cancer

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