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A pan-Canadian web-based education program to support screening for distress: Evaluation of outcomes

  • Deborah L. McLeod (a1), Angela C. Morck (a2) and Janet A. Curran (a3)



Cancer-related distress has been endorsed as the sixth vital sign by many international cancer organizations, and some countries such as Canada have implemented national screening for distress programs. The completion of a screening tool is an important first step in improving responsiveness to cancer-related distress, but screening must be followed with skilled supportive care to make a difference in patient-reported outcomes. Our objective was to create a web-based education program to support nurses and other frontline staff in providing an initial response to screening results.


To address screening and supportive care learning needs, the Canadian Association of Psychosocial Oncology (CAPO), with support from the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, created a web-based education program as one component of the national screening for distress agenda. The program provides clinically grounded and interactive learning through the use of PowerPoint presentations, video clips of clinical interactions with patients and family members, and test questions. Presentation topics include, for example, strategies for dealing with screening results, managing referrals, and supportive counseling. We employed a matched pairs, pre-post survey design to assess the effect of the education program on confidence in screening and in providing initial supportive care.


Our analysis of the first 147 matched pairs to complete the course suggests that satisfaction with the course was high. Statistically significant increases in confidence in relation to screening for distress and assessing distress, and in providing initial supportive care, were evident.

Significance of results:

Our ongoing experience with CAPO's Interprofessional Psychosocial Oncology Distance Education (IPODE) project ( project suggests that healthcare professionals value web-based learning for its accessibility and convenience. Such programs appear to offer excellent opportunities for cost-effective education that supports practice change.


Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Deborah L. McLeod, Psychosocial Oncology Team (NSCC), QEII Health Sciences Centre, Victoria 11-006, 1278 Tower Rd., Halifax, Nova Scotia, CanadaB3H 2Y9. E-mail:


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