Cancer Patients' Mental Health Distress and Suicidality:flflfl Impact on Oncology Healthcare Workers and Coping Strategies

Leeat Granek, Ora Nakash, Samuel Ariad, Shahar Shapira, Merav Ben-David

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: A substantial number of people with cancer endorse suicidality when compared with the general population. Thus, oncology healthcare workers may experience the death of a patient to suicide over their careers. Aims: To explore the impact of patients? mental health distress and suicidality on oncology personnel with a secondary aim of exploring how personnel cope with these types of events. Method: We interviewed 61 healthcare professionals (HCPs) at two cancer centers. The grounded theory method (GT) was used. Results: The impact of patients? mental health distress and suicidal ideation on oncology HCPs included sadness, depression, worry and concern, and feeling emotionally overwhelmed. The impact of patient suicide on HCPs included trauma, guilt, and surprise. Oncology personnel reported a change in practice, including communication style, being attuned to patient cues, and changing the physical environment. Coping strategies included colleague support, seeking professional help, and setting boundaries between their work and home life. Limitations: It is likely that HCPs who participated in the study represent those who are more willing to discuss issues related to suicide. Thus, the impact of patient suicide on healthcare providers may be even more pronounced among the general oncology HCP community. Conclusion: Given the higher risk of suicide among cancer patients, it is necessary to increase awareness about the impact these events may have on HCPs. Professional guidelines can highlight the need for a balance between ensuring the availability of informal support and more formal methods of help.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)429-436
Number of pages8
JournalCrisis
Volume40
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - 2019

Funding

FundersFunder number
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

    Keywords

    • cancer patients
    • grounded theory
    • healthcare workers
    • mental health distress
    • oncology
    • qualitative methods
    • suicidality

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