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Oncology Nurses' Perceptions of Nursing Roles and Professional Attributes in Palliative Care

Carol Pavlish
Lyn Ceronsky
CJON 2009, 13(4), 404-412 DOI: 10.1188/09.CJON.404-412

Managing symptoms, providing information, and supporting families as well as patients are key aspects of palliative care. However, palliative care definitions and perspectives vary widely in clinical practice and often do not align with palliative care organizations' perspectives. Definitional discrepancies may result in delayed referrals and role confusion, which often limit the effectiveness of palliative care programs and contribute to gaps in care and services for patients and their families. The aim of this research study was to explore oncology nurses' perspectives of palliative care through narrative analysis of participants' descriptions of life experiences. Studying nurses' perceptions of their roles in palliative care offers an opportunity to examine and improve clinical practice. Nine focus groups were conducted with 33 oncology nurses in three medical centers in the midwestern region of the United States. Researchers inductively coded research text within each focus group session, sorted across sessions using Atlas.ti 5.2 software, and then applied categorical-content narrative analysis. Findings revealed five primary nursing roles: teaching, caring, coordinating, advocating, and mobilizing. In all five roles, seven professional attributes were described: clinical expertise, honesty, family orientation, perceptive attentiveness, presence, collaboration, and deliberateness. Integrating palliative care standards into role and attribute development and working with palliative care specialty teams are suggested.

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