Dr Liesbeth van Vliet has won the CaRe Dissertation Award for her PhD about communication in palliative care. The nationwide Research school CaRe (the Netherlands School of Primary Care Research) awards this prize for the best PhD thesis every year.
Van Vliet – who conducted her research at NIVEL, the Netherlands – focused her PhD on balancing explicit with general information and realism with hope when discussing the transition from curative to palliative breast cancer care. Her research showed that explicit prognostic information and reassuring words about continuing support can help to soften the blow of a palliative cancer diagnosis. A majority of breast cancer patients/survivors and healthy women participating in the study valued explicit information about their life expectancy. In addition physicians can offer realistic hope, for example, by reassuring patients that they will not be abandoned by the oncologist and hospital at any time in the course of their disease.
These conclusions were drawn based on a qualitative study with group discussions and an experimental study using role-played videos. In these videos specific communication elements were manipulated and evaluated by breast cancer patients/survivors and healthy women. Using this approach, the influence of different forms of communication could be determined.
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