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Improving Oncology Nurses’ Knowledge About Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Survivors

Merel R. van Veen
Meeke Hoedjes
Joline J. Versteegen
Nienke van de Meulengraaf-Wilhelm
Ellen Kampman
Sandra Beijer
ONF 2017, 44(4), 488-496 DOI: 10.1188/17.ONF.488-496

Purpose/Objectives: To assess what percentage of oncology nurses perceived themselves as having insufficient knowledge to provide advice on nutrition and/or physical activity (PA), which characteristics were associated with nurses’ perception, and whether the content and information sources differed among those nurses.


Design: A cross-sectional study.


Setting: A web-based survey among oncology nurses in the Netherlands.


Sample: 355 oncology nurses provided advice on nutrition; of these, 327 provided advice on PA.


Methods: From May to July 2013, oncology nurses were invited to complete an online questionnaire. Pearson’s chi-squared tests and uni- and multivariate logistic regression analyses were conducted.


Main Research Variables: Oncology nurses’ perception of having sufficient or insufficient knowledge to be able to provide advice on nutrition and PA, the content of the advice, and the information sources on which the advice was based.


Findings: 43% of oncology nurses perceived themselves as having insufficient knowledge to provide advice on nutrition, and 46% perceived insufficient knowledge to provide advice on PA. Factors associated with perceiving insufficient knowledge on nutrition were being aged younger, having lower education, and providing counseling during treatment only. Those nurses were more likely to suggest taking oral nutritional supplements or visiting a dietitian and were less likely to provide information on fluid intake. Nurses perceiving insufficient knowledge about PA used oncology guidelines less often.


Conclusions: Almost half of the oncology nurses providing advice on nutrition and PA perceived themselves as having insufficient knowledge to be able to provide such advice. In particular, younger oncology nurses and oncology nurses with an intermediate vocational education may benefit most from education about these topics. 


Implications for Nursing: Educational training for oncology nurses should include nutrition and PA. Oncology nurses should collaborate with dietitians to discuss what information should be provided to patients by whom, and specific PA advice should be provided by a physical therapist.

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