A better understanding of the meaning of cancer and oncology nursing may yield insights that will help identify ways in which nurses can obtain the resources they need to meet their own needs and to provide effective care. This article briefly reviews literature on job stress, burnout, coping, and job satisfaction and summarizes our research on nurses' descriptions of the meaning and nature of their work with cancer patients. Nurses described having three important roles: maintaining the goals and values of health care; participating in the patients' experiences; and reconciling the health care values and the patients' experiences (ie, the other two roles). Aspects that are rewarding are also difficult and individual experiences and perceptions changed the meaning of work, the needs nurses have, and the care they provide. The work of nursing may be most satisfying when nurses can articulate the meaning of their work and most effective when they understand how these meanings affect patient care.
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