Elevated distress and high prevalence of mental disorder in people with cancer has been demonstrated in the literature (Carlson et al, 2012; Mehnert, et al 2014). Despite the prevalence referral is dependent on identification of distress by other health professionals and, of those with high distress levels, only a small number seek and accept support (Baker-Glen, et al, 2011).
This study sought to expedite access to psychosocial services in a comprehensive cancer centre in western Sydney, Australia by trialling a Rapid Psychosocial Assessment Clinic (RPAC) that was social work student led.
This cross-sectional study used convenience sampling to recruit people with cancer commencing radiation therapy. Participants were provided with an RPAC appointment immediately following their radiation therapy planning session. In the clinic the distress thermometer and a modified problem checklist were completed as well as a brief psychosocial assessment.
Fifty people with an average age of 64 years participated. Overall, 62% of participants required follow-up and allied referral (usually to social work). The median score on the Distress thermometer was 3 and the median time spent in the RPAC was 30 minutes (range: 15 to 45 minutes). Main problems identified were nervousness (24%), sadness (16%), and transportation (16%).
The social work student-led Rapid Psychosocial Assessment Clinic provided people access to psychosocial services and facilitated timely referrals. The RPAC allowed for early intervention to people who may not have otherwise accessed these services.