OBJECTIVES: Recognition of the efficacy of couple-based interventions in reducing psychological distress and improving QoL for couples facing cancer is increasing. The success of these interventions may be partially attributed to improvements in dyadic coping, a coping strategy that reflects how couples manage stressors together, rather than as individuals. This has implications for how psycho-social interventions for patients with cancer and their partners are conceptualised and delivered. It is therefore timely to explore how health care professionals (HCPs) perceive the impact of cancer on couples, how they view couple-based interventions, and how health services can best meet couples’ needs.
METHODS: Semi-structured face-to-face or telephone interviews, guided by a grounded theory framework, were conducted with HCPs (psychologists, social workers, cancer care coordinators, medical oncologists) from across NSW and QLD (n= 10, to date). Potential participants were contacted directly and invited to participate. Interviews were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim, then coded separately by two authors to enhance methodological rigor.
RESULTS: HCPs had mixed opinions regarding the issues facing couples, and some differences were noted between disciplines. However, most HCPs believed the health system they worked in could improve how they managed of couples’ distress. Most HCPs also felt that couples that communicated openly with each other and with HCPs tended to cope better than couples that did not. Key differences emerged regarding the most pressing needs for couples following a cancer diagnosis (emotional vs. informational support), the utility and feasibility of dyadic distress screening, and the perceived need for more training to manage couples’ issues.
CONCLUSIONS: Overall, HCPs were acutely aware of the issues faced by couples. Althoughsomedifferences emerged between professional disciplines regarding the most pertinent needs of couples facing cancer, commonalities included an emphasis on improving communication within couples and towards HCPs, and providing tailored information for couples. Future research may consider the barriers and facilitators for improving services for couples facing cancer.