Enabling sustained communication with patients for safe and effective management of oral chemotherapy: A longitudinal ethnography

Gary Mitchell, Sam Porter, Elizabeth Manias

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Aims: To examine how patients received, understood, and acted on healthcare professional communication about their oral chemotherapeutic regimen throughout their treatment. Design: A longitudinal ethnographic study. Methods: Over 60 hr of observational data were recorded, in the form of field notes and audio-recordings from interactions among nine oncology doctors, six oncology nurses, eight patients, and 11 family members over a period of 6 months in outpatient departments in one hospital in Northern Ireland. Sixteen semi-structured interviews with patients and three focus groups with healthcare professionals were also carried out. This study took place from October 2013–June 2016. Data were thematically analysed. Results: Three themes where identified from the data. These were initiating concordance through first communication about oral chemotherapy; which focused on initial communication during oncology consultations about oral chemotherapy, sustained communication of managing chemotherapy side effects; which was about how communication processes supported timely and effective side effect management and un-sustained communication of oral chemotherapy medication-taking practice; when patients and healthcare professionals failed to communicate effectively about chemotherapy medication-taking. Conclusion: The two most important factors in ensuring the optimal management of oral chemotherapeutic medicines are early recognition and appropriate response to side effects and the maintenance of safe and effective medication administration. This study found that oncology doctors and nurses engaged in sustained communication about the side effects of chemotherapy but did not focus their communication on safe administration after the first consultation. Impact: Based on this evidence, we recommend that healthcare professionals who provide oral chemotherapy for home administration should review their processes and procedures. Healthcare professionals need to ensure that they embed frequent communication for the duration of treatment between themselves and patients, including open discussion and advice, about side effects and medication administration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)899-909
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Advanced Nursing
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • cancer
  • communication
  • ethnography
  • medication-taking
  • nursing
  • oncology
  • oral chemotherapy
  • patient participation
  • patient safety
  • qualitative research

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