Margaret I. Fitch

University of Toronto, Canada

Title: Nurses competencies for psychosocial care of individuals with cancer living in Africa


Background: There is growing recognition across Africa regarding the need for improved psychosocial care of cancer patients and families. Heightened levels of unmet supportive care needs and emotional distress have been reported for cancer patients in various countries. Nurses are in an ideal position to assess needs of patients and family members, provide emotional support, and offer basic psychosocial care. However, they must possess relevant knowledge and skills regarding psychosocial care to do so. African nurses have reported they feel challenged gaining the necessary education for psychosocial cancer care as nursing programs vary widely in offering psychosocial content.

Methods: Expert oncology nurses, who work in Africa, designed competencies for African nurses to guide their psychosocial care of cancer patients. The competencies were designed following review of relevant literature, existing standards of practice for oncology nursing and psychosocial care, and contextualization for nursing practice in Africa regarding patients with cancer and their families. 
Impact on Practice: These newly designed competencies are available for basic and advanced African nurses to guide their education for, and delivery of, psychosocial care of cancer patients and families.  

Discussion: Competencies are ready for uptake and evaluation in local African nursing educational and practice settings. The competencies can be utilized in the preparation of students or to enhance skills of nurses in health care settings where cancer patients receive care.  


Margaret I Fitch, RN PhD, is a professor (adjunct) at the Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, University of Toronto, in Canada. She has a background in oncology nursing and psychosocial oncology, including palliative care, practicing for over 20 years at the Odette Cancer Centre in Toronto. She held the positions of head of oncology nursing and psychosocial oncology, and co-director of the psychosocial and behavioral oncology research unit. Her long-term research focus has been on coping and adaptation of patients/survivors and families across the cancer trajectory. Advocacy for patient and stakeholder engagement has been a specific interest. Psychosocial care along the cancer trajectory and survivorship are the broad foci for her research work and teaching. She currently serves as editor-in-chief of the Canadian Oncology Nursing Journal and is on the board of director with the Canadian Association of Nurses in Oncology. She is an honorary lecturer at both the University of Rwanda and the University of Nairobi within their respective nursing schools.