1. Wiencek, Clareen A. PhD, ACNP-BC, ACHPN
  2. Ferrell, Betty R. RN, PhD, MA
  3. Jackson, Molly RN, MSN, CNP


The prevalence and survival rates of critically ill patients with cancer in the intensive care unit have increased considerably in the past 2 decades; yet, the meaning of caring for cancer patients in this setting may fall along a continuum. This article addresses the nurse's experience in caring for the critically ill patient with cancer by presenting a current profile of these patient in the intensive care unit in the context of the historical development and mission of critical care and the evolution of cancer as a chronic disease. The moral distress that can result when these 2 "cultures" or "realities" collide and the meaning of the nurse's work will be examined. Strategies and resources for critical care nurses to incorporate into their practice when caring for the critically ill patient with cancer, and themselves, will be addressed.