An analysis of critical incidents describing the essence of oncology nursing.

R. Steeves, M. Z. Cohen, C. T. Wise

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


PURPOSE: To describe oncology nurses' perceptions of the meaning of their work using particularly relevant anecdotes. DESIGN: Multi-institutional, descriptive, qualitative. SETTING: Six sites in different regions of the United States; rural and urban cancer and noncancer centers. SAMPLE: 38 oncology nurses (mean age = 35 years; average time in nursing = 10 years and in oncology = 7 years; 47% bachelor's degrees in nursing, 29% diploma, 13% associate degree in nursing, and 11% master's prepared). METHODS: Phenomenological; content analysis of interviews. FINDINGS: Nurses described three roles, each characterized by a set of activities: (a) maintaining the values of the healthcare establishment as characterized by monitoring, acting on patients' behalf, protecting patients, and bringing patients into line, (b) participating in patients' experiences as characterized by "being there" for patients, being with dying patients, and, in a sense, becoming part of patients' families, and (c) reconciling healthcare values and the experiences of patients as characterized by teaching and telling the truth. CONCLUSIONS: Nurses not only demonstrated self-confidence, courage, emotional strength, and a desire to be empathetic but also displayed an unexamined belief that they understood their patients' experiences, were isolated in their work, and experienced difficulty dealing with suffering. IMPLICATIONS FOR NURSING PRACTICE: Future research should establish whether nurses' understanding of their patients' experiences correlates with patients' accounts of those experiences and whether nurses' sense of isolation is indicative of a pattern of inadequate supportive resources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-25
Number of pages7
JournalOncology nursing forum
Issue number8 Suppl
StatePublished - Sep 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology(nursing)


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