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focus groups, nursing, oncology nursing, palliative care, qualitative research



  1. Wright, David Kenneth PhD, RN, CHPCN(C)


Nurses play a key role in integrating palliative care into oncology. This project sought to better understand oncology nurses' perspectives about palliative care. Nurses from a community hospital were presented with a series of clinical scenarios and asked to comment on the appropriateness of palliative care in each case. A series of focus groups were held, inviting nurses' reflections about palliative care in relation to their practice. Nurses commenting on the clinical scenarios were unanimous that palliative care was appropriate in the most straightforward case: older adult, approaching the terminal phase of a cancer, having exhausted all curative treatment options, accepting death, wanting comfort, and contending with difficult symptoms. However, opinions on appropriateness varied in less straightforward cases, such as when patients did not accept death or when their cancer diagnosis was recent. In focus groups, nurses described a hybrid professional identity that integrates both oncology and palliative care. To them, this integration constituted the meaning of "cancer care." They further reflected on tensions they experience between their proximity to patients in everyday care and their (in)abilities to meet palliative care needs. Results suggest the need for stronger institutional supports of cancer nurses' palliative practice.