Internet Use and Advanced Practice Oncology Nursing

Joshua Fogel, PhD


Topics in Advanced Practice Nursing eJournal. 2002;2(4) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Internet use is increasing among healthcare consumers and advanced practice nurses. In the field of health, the Internet may be used for actual care, information, and support. A literature review shows that Internet use offers potential psychosocial benefits beyond traditional healthcare delivery in the form of social support. This article discusses Internet use in oncologic settings as a potential useful clinical resource. Guidelines for implementing an Internet-use interview are offered and sample Web sites are given that nurses may find helpful to themselves and their cancer patients. Finally, Internet users are cautioned regarding Web site quality and email confidentiality.

Internet use is becoming increasingly popular. Recent surveys indicate that in the United States in 2000, 41 million individuals,[1] and in 2001, 100 million individuals sought health information online.[2] Cancer is one of the top 3 diseases, along with allergies and heart disease, about which the public seeks information on the Internet.[3] Fogel and colleagues[4] reported that 42% of breast cancer patients in the United States use the Internet as a source of information. Chen and Siu[5] surveyed a Canadian sample of those with mixed cancer diagnoses and found that 51% use the Internet as a source of information. Breast cancer patients with higher income, education, and those of white race/ethnicity are more likely to use the Internet for breast health issues.[4] This is consistent with the literature showing that the general population of cancer patients who seek non-Internet sources of information are of higher socioeconomic status and of white race/ethnicity.[6,7]

Besides increased use of the Internet by consumers, oncology nurses have rapidly increased their Internet use over the past few years. They use the Internet as a source of general information, for clinical practice recommendations, and as part of research programs. A survey done in 1997 at the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) Congress[8] indicated that 47% of oncology nurses had Internet access at work and 49% at home. Twenty-five percent used oncology-related Internet services and 39% indicated an interest in accessing the Internet for that purpose. Participants were asked about their preferences for a user-friendly Internet system and the features that would interest them. Seventy-five percent indicated oncology-related news as important, 51% a symptom management chat line, 35% a legislative news relay system, 31% a bulletin board system, 28% legislative email, and only 13% expressed no interest. A survey done 1 year later at the 1998 ONS Congress determined that 72% used the Internet, with 46% accessing it on a daily basis. Ten percent used it for continuing education activities.

Another study published in 1999 assessed the impact of a breast and cervical health program Web site by public health nursing outreach workers. Seventy-eight percent found it beneficial. They rated this Web site as their third highest source of health information and the third highest timely source of health information after professional journals/books and health agencies (eg, National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society). Upon inquiry, these nurses predicted that in the next 2 to 3 years, they most likely would rate the Internet as their first choice for health information. However, at that time, they rated the Internet as only the sixth most credible source for health information after a variety of other sources.[9]


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