Special feature Screening for distress: Responding is a critical function for oncology nurses

Margaret I. Fitch, Doris Howell, Deborah McLeod, Esther Green


The practice of routine screening for distress in cancer populations has been gaining worldwide support over the past several years with the conceptualization of distress as the sixth vital sign. Across Canada, experience with screening for distress is growing, as cancer facilities implement screening programs. Early learning from these efforts has emphasized the need for a programmatic approach and the importance of oncology nurses in screening and providing the initial response to distress.

To date, little has been written from the nursing perspective about the oncology nursing role in a program screening for distress and responding to the identified patient concerns. This article describes the current thinking about distress; explores how screening for and responding to distress is integral to oncology nursing practice; and shares the early learning and experiences of cancer nurses in implementing screening for distress initiatives.

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