Perspectives of oncology nurses and oncologists regarding barriers to working with patients from a minority background: Systemic issues and working with interpreters

K. J. Watts, B. Meiser, E. Zilliacus, R. Kaur, M. Taouk, A. Girgis, P. Butow, D. W. Kissane, S. Hale, A. Perry, S. K. Aranda, D. Goldstein

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This study aimed to ascertain the systemic barriers encountered by oncology health professionals (HPs) working with patients from ethnic minorities to guide the development of a communication skills training programme. Twelve medical and five radiation oncologists and 21 oncology nurses were invited to participate in this qualitative study. Participants were interviewed individually or in a focus group about their experiences working with people from minority backgrounds. All interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed thematically. HPs encountered language and communication barriers in their interactions with patients and their families, which were perceived to impact negatively on the quality and amount of information and support provided. There was a shortage of, and poor processes for engaging, interpreters and some HPs were concerned about the accuracy of interpretation. HPs expressed a need for training in cultural awareness and communication skills with a preference for face-to-face delivery. A lack of funding, a culture of "learning on the job", and time constraints were systemic barriers to training. Oncologists and oncology nurses encounter complex challenges in clinical interactions with minority patients and their families, including difficulties working with interpreters. Formal training programmes targeted to the development of culturally competent communication skills are required.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12758
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Cancer Care
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018


  • Communication skills
  • Cultural competence
  • Health professionals
  • Minority patients
  • Oncology

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