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Specialist call handlers’ perspectives on providing help on a cancer helpline: a qualitative interview study

Specialist call handlers’ perspectives on providing help on a cancer helpline: a qualitative interview study
Specialist call handlers’ perspectives on providing help on a cancer helpline: a qualitative interview study
Objective: to identify call handlers’ key experiences of providing telephone help on a cancer helpline.

Methods: semi‐structured qualitative interviews with 30 call handlers from three UK‐based cancer helplines. Transcribed interview data were analysed thematically.

Results: thematic analysis identified three themes: (a) call handlers’ perceptions of their role on the helpline, (b) challenges of working on a helpline and (c) the need for training/keeping up with competencies. Call handlers reported satisfaction with their experience. However, there are tensions: whilst advice is formally not part of the remit of the helpline, in practice the boundary between giving advice and giving information can be blurred. No follow‐up with callers could be difficult and experienced as a lost opportunity to help. Managing patient expectations could be challenging, and interviewees described particular difficulties with distressed callers. Training for the role was commonplace, but there was sometimes a desire for more opportunities.

Conclusion: there are challenges faced by helpline staff, and it can be difficult to manage callers’ distress and expectations of what they might get from a call experience. Recognising the skill and complexity of the call handler role is important, as it is meeting call handlers’ support and training needs. Support is important to minimise the risk to their own emotional well‐being.
0961-5423
Leydon, Geraldine M.
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Halls, Amy
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Ekberg, Katie
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Latter, Sue
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Stuart, Beth
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Moynihan, Clare
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Salmon, Peter
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Danquah, Lisa
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Brindle, Lucy
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Howe, Sonia
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Woods, Catherine J.
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Little, Paul
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Leydon, Geraldine M.
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Halls, Amy
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Ekberg, Katie
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Latter, Sue
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Stuart, Beth
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Moynihan, Clare
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Salmon, Peter
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Danquah, Lisa
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Brindle, Lucy
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Howe, Sonia
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Woods, Catherine J.
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Little, Paul
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Leydon, Geraldine M., Halls, Amy, Ekberg, Katie, Latter, Sue, Stuart, Beth, Moynihan, Clare, Salmon, Peter, Danquah, Lisa, Brindle, Lucy, Howe, Sonia, Woods, Catherine J. and Little, Paul (2019) Specialist call handlers’ perspectives on providing help on a cancer helpline: a qualitative interview study. European Journal of Cancer Care, [e13081]. (doi:10.1111/ecc.13081).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Objective: to identify call handlers’ key experiences of providing telephone help on a cancer helpline.

Methods: semi‐structured qualitative interviews with 30 call handlers from three UK‐based cancer helplines. Transcribed interview data were analysed thematically.

Results: thematic analysis identified three themes: (a) call handlers’ perceptions of their role on the helpline, (b) challenges of working on a helpline and (c) the need for training/keeping up with competencies. Call handlers reported satisfaction with their experience. However, there are tensions: whilst advice is formally not part of the remit of the helpline, in practice the boundary between giving advice and giving information can be blurred. No follow‐up with callers could be difficult and experienced as a lost opportunity to help. Managing patient expectations could be challenging, and interviewees described particular difficulties with distressed callers. Training for the role was commonplace, but there was sometimes a desire for more opportunities.

Conclusion: there are challenges faced by helpline staff, and it can be difficult to manage callers’ distress and expectations of what they might get from a call experience. Recognising the skill and complexity of the call handler role is important, as it is meeting call handlers’ support and training needs. Support is important to minimise the risk to their own emotional well‐being.

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Callhandler paper accepted March 2019 v2 - Accepted Manuscript
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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 25 March 2019
e-pub ahead of print date: 23 May 2019

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 432742
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/432742
ISSN: 0961-5423
PURE UUID: bb0a80a3-ee56-4ef5-a3fd-c855d1733b39
ORCID for Geraldine M. Leydon: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-5986-3300
ORCID for Sue Latter: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-0973-0512
ORCID for Beth Stuart: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-5432-7437
ORCID for Lucy Brindle: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-8933-3754

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 25 Jul 2019 16:30
Last modified: 22 Nov 2021 07:32

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Contributors

Author: Amy Halls
Author: Katie Ekberg
Author: Sue Latter ORCID iD
Author: Beth Stuart ORCID iD
Author: Clare Moynihan
Author: Peter Salmon
Author: Lisa Danquah
Author: Lucy Brindle ORCID iD
Author: Sonia Howe
Author: Paul Little

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