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Influence of oncology nurses’ empathy on lung cancer patients’ cellular immunity

Authors Yang N, Xiao H, Cao Y, Li S, Yan H, Wang Y

Received 19 March 2018

Accepted for publication 18 May 2018

Published 31 July 2018 Volume 2018:11 Pages 279—287

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/PRBM.S168649

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Colin Mak

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Professor Igor Elman


Ningxi Yang,1,* Han Xiao,1,* Yingnan Cao,2 Shiyue Li,1,* Hong Yan,1 Yifang Wang3,*

1Department of Epidemiology, School of Health Sciences, Wuhan University, Wuhan, Hubei, China; 2Medical Insurance Office, Beijing Jishuitan Hospital/4th Medical College of Peking University, Xicheng, Beijing, China; 3Department of Medical Humanities, Institute of Medical Humanities, Peking University, Haidian, Beijing, China

*These authors contributed equally to this work

Background: Medical staff’s empathy is closely related to patients’ outcome. This research aimed to verify the influence of Chinese oncology nurses’ empathy on the cellular immunity of lung cancer patients.
Materials and methods: The study included 365 lung cancer patients, who were attended by 30 oncology nurses between October 2016 and May 2017. At the time of admission and discharge, flow cytometric analysis was used to measure the cellular immunity of patients, including T-cell subsets and natural killer (NK)-cell activity. The level of empathy of the oncology nurses was measured by the Jefferson Scale of Empathy (JSE, Chinese version). The nurses were divided into high, moderate, and low empathy groups based on JSE scores. Associations between the empathy shown by nurses and the cellular immunity of patients were examined.
Results: On admission, there was no statistical difference in the cellular immunity of the patients taken care of by the three groups of nurses (P>0.05). At discharge, patients whose nurses were in the high empathy group reported significantly higher B-cell and NK-cell percentages than those whose nurses were in the low empathy group (P<0.001). There was a positive correlation between nurse empathy and percentage of B cells (P=0.003) and NK cells (P<0.001), but no correlation was found between empathy and percentage of CD3+, CD4+, and CD8+ cells. Multiple linear regression analyses indicated that nurse empathy significantly contributed to patient percentage of B cells and NK cells after controlling for patient demographics, disease conditions, and lifestyle.
Conclusion: The effect of oncology nurses’ empathy on cellular immunity was confirmed in lung cancer patients, suggesting empathy education, such as narrative medicine education, should be strengthened to improve patient outcome.

Keywords: empathy, lung cancer, nurse, cellular immunity, narrative medicine

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