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Assessing the reliability of patient, nurse, and family caregiver symptom ratings in hospitalized advanced cancer patients.
Nekolaichuk CL, Maguire TO, Suarez-Almazor M, Rogers WT, Bruera E. Assessing the reliability of patient, nurse, and family caregiver symptom ratings in hospitalized advanced cancer patients. Journal of clinical oncology : official journal of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. 1999 Nov 1; 17(11):3621-30.
PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to examine the reliability of symptom assessments in advanced cancer patients under various conditions, including multiple raters (patients, nurses, and family caregivers), occasions, and symptoms. PATIENTS AND METHODS: The study sample consisted of 32 advanced cancer patients admitted to a tertiary palliative care unit. Symptom assessments were completed for each patient on two separate occasions, approximately 24 hours apart. On each occasion, the patient, the primary care nurse, and a primary family caregiver independently completed an assessment using the Edmonton Symptom Assessment System (ESAS). The ESAS is a nine-item visual analogue scale for assessing symptoms in palliative patients. The reliability of the assessments (r) was examined using generalizability theory. RESULTS: Three important findings emerged from this analysis. First, the analysis of individual symptom ratings provided a more meaningful representation of the symptom experience than total symptom distress ratings. Secondly, patients, nurses, and caregivers varied in their ratings across different patients, as well as in their ratings of shortness of breath, which may have been a result of individual rater variability. Finally, reliability estimates (r), based on a single rater and one occasion, were less than.70 for all symptoms, except appetite. These estimates improved substantially (r > / = .70) for all symptoms except anxiety and shortness of breath, using three raters on a single occasion or two raters across two occasions. CONCLUSION: The findings from this study reinforce the need for the development of an integrated symptom assessment approach that combines patient and proxy assessments. Further research is needed to explore individual differences among raters.