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Psychooncology. 2011 Feb;20(2):219-23. doi: 10.1002/pon.1751.

Coping with cancer: a brief report on stress and coping strategies in medical students dealing with cancer patients.

Author information

1
Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Gloucestershire, UK. Francescamary.jones@nhs.net

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

This pilot study explored factors associated with stress in medical students during their initial clinical contact with cancer patients, in particular identifying stress levels and coping strategies used.

METHODS:

A total of 80 medical students at The University of Birmingham Medical School, UK, completed retrospective self-report questionnaires measuring socio-demographics, potential stressors and coping strategies (using the Brief COPE inventory). Statistical analysis followed data collection.

FINDINGS:

Of all socio-demographic categories, female gender correlated with the highest stress score (p<0.05). The most stressful situations reported related to the patient's condition, the biopsychosocial effects of the cancer on the patient and his/her family, and breaking bad news. A combination of problem- and emotion-focussed strategies were used to manage stress; and the extent of their usage was significantly related to individual stress levels (p<0.01) in both instances.

INTERPRETATION:

Medical students in an oncology setting experience moderate stress and utilise a combination of problem- and emotion-focussed coping strategies to combat this stress. A greater use of both coping strategies was seen in students experiencing higher levels of stress. This may suggest a relative lack of effective coping skills. In light of this, the implementation of coping strategy training as a part of the medical course and/or support groups may be beneficial.

PMID:
20878845
DOI:
10.1002/pon.1751
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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