Purpose/Objectives: To test patients' knowledge of side effects after they review six easy-to-read pamphlets on radiation side effects.
Setting: Urban radiation oncology clinic.
Sample: 47 patients receiving radiation treatment.
Methods: The Knowledge of Radiation Side Effects Test was administered.
Main Research Variables: Patient literacy and knowledge level.
Findings: The self-report of highest grade completed in school was 10th grade; however, the actual reading level was 4th-6th grade. Scores for each knowledge test increased with literacy level, with statistically significant correlations for pamphlets on fatigue, skin problems for women, and skin problems for men. Participants who read at the 4th-6th-grade level scored higher than expected.
Conclusions: Although the pamphlets were deemed easy to read, patients who had the lowest reading levels still had difficulty understanding them.
Implications for Nursing: In addition to written patient information, oncology nurses should use innovative teaching strategies to improve patient understanding and self-care behaviors. A need exists for continued nursing inquiry that will focus on self-care behaviors to manage radiation side effects, particularly for patients with low literacy.