Communicating with cancer patients: What areas do physician assistants find most challenging?

Patricia A. Parker, Alicia C. Ross, Maura N. Polansky, J. Lynn Palmer, M. Alma Rodriguez, Walter F. Baile

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Scopus citations


Physician assistants (PAs) and other midlevel practitioners have been taking on increasing clinical roles in oncology settings. Little is known about the communication needs and skills of oncology PAs. PAs working in oncology (n=301) completed an online survey that included questions about their perceived skill and difficulty on several key communication tasks. Overall, PAs rated these communication tasks as "somewhat" to "moderately" difficult and their skill level in these areas as "average" to "good." Areas of most perceived difficulty were intervening with angry patients or those in denial and breaking bad news. Highest perceived skills were in communicating with patients from cultures and religions different than your own and telling patient he/she has cancer or disease has progressed, and the lowest perceived skills were in discussing do not resuscitate orders. There are areas in which enhancement of communication skills may be needed, and educational opportunities should be developed for PAs working in oncology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)524-529
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Cancer Education
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2010


  • Communication
  • Oncology
  • Physician assistant

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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