A nurse-led phone intervention can decrease emergency department (ED) visits and hospital admissions among patients with head and neck cancer receiving radiation therapy, according to research published in the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing.

For this study, patients with head and neck cancer who were receiving radiation therapy and were given a prescription for pain medication were contacted by a nurse 48 to 72 hours after their prescription distribution.

During the phone call, nurses asked 6 questions about pain and pain medication. Pain was scored on an 11-point numeric rating scale. The outcomes of interest were the number of ED visits and hospital admissions. Outcomes were compared with those of patients treated before this intervention began.

Continue Reading

There were 11 patients treated before the intervention began and 19 patients treated after. However, due to a lack of nursing staff, only 10 phone calls were made in the 48 to 72 hours after prescription distribution in the post-intervention group.

Nevertheless, the rate of ED visits decreased from 36% pre-intervention to 26% post-intervention. Hospital admission rates decreased from 27% to 16%.

In the pre-intervention group, the median pain score increased from 0.9 on the first day of treatment to 5 on the last day of treatment. In the post-intervention group, the median pain score increased from 2.25 to 6.25.

“By implementing a telephone care path to contact patients receiving radiation therapy and pain medication, nurses can more effectively assess and manage patients’ pain,” the study author concluded.


McDuffie AL. Effects of a nurse-initiated telephone care path for pain management in patients with head and neck cancer receiving radiation therapy. Clin J Oncol Nurs. 2023;27(2):143-146. doi:10.1188/23.cjon.143-146

This article originally appeared on Oncology Nurse Advisor