Oncologists' communication about end of life: the relationship among secondary traumatic stress, compassion satisfaction, and approach and avoidance communication Academic Article uri icon


  • Background Oncologists must communicate effectively with patients and their families about end of life (EOL). Despite the importance of communicating on this topic, many oncologists avoid these conversations. The objective of this study was to examine the associations between secondary traumatic stress and compassion satisfaction and approach and avoidant communication about EOL with cancer patients. Methods A convenience sample of 79 oncologists (n = 27 men, n = 52 women) participated in the study. Oncologists completed a survey that included a sociodemographic and clinical information questionnaire, the Professional Quality of Life Scale, and Communication about End of Life Survey. To examine the effect of secondary traumatic stress and compassion satisfaction on approach and avoidant communication, while controlling for gender and age, 2 hierarchical linear regression analyses were computed. Results Oncologists reported high levels of secondary traumatic stress and high compassion satisfaction. Scores on the approach and avoidant communication scales were in the mid-range of the scale. Lower reports of secondary traumatic stress and higher compassion satisfaction were associated with higher approach communication strategies: however, only higher secondary traumatic stress was associated with higher avoidant communication strategies. Conclusions Our findings indicate that there is an association between emotional factors and approach communication. The findings have clinical implications in designing effective communication skills training. Further research and training should take secondary traumatic stress and compassion satisfaction into consideration to be able to ensure that terminal patients and their families receive the best quality EOL care.

publication date

  • January 1, 2017