Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary

Existential issues in surgical care : Nurses’ experiences and attitudes in caring for patients with cancer


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Research Areas

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Publication Details

Subtitle: Nurses’ experiences and attitudes in caring for patients with cancer

Author list: Udo, Camilla

Publisher: Mittuniversitetet

Place: Östersund

Publication year: 2012

ISBN: 978-91-87103-42-1


The overall aim of this thesis was to explore surgical nurses’ experiences of being confronted with patients’ existential issues when caring for patients with cancer, and to examine whether an educational intervention may support nurses in addressing existential needs when caring for patients with cancer. Previously recorded discussions from supervision sessions with eight healthcare professionals were analysed (I), written descriptions of critical incidents were collected from 10 nurses, and interviews with open questions were conducted (II). An educational intervention on existential issues was pilot tested and is presented in Studies III and IV. The intervention was the basis of a pilot study with the purpose of testing whether the whole design of the educational intervention, including measurements instruments, is appropriate. In Study III and IV interviews with 11 nurses were conducted and 42 nurses were included in the quantitative measurements of four questionnaires, which were distributed and collected. Data was analysed using qualitative secondary analysis (I), hermeneutical analysis (II), and mixed methods using qualitative content analysis and statistical analyses (III-IV). Results in all studies show that existential issues are part of caring at surgical wards. However, although the nurses were aware of them, they found it difficult to acknowledge these issues owing to for example insecurity (I-III), a strict medical focus (II) and/or lacking strategies (I-III) for communicating on these issues. Modest results from the pilot study are reported and suggest beneficial influences of a support in communication on existential issues (III). The results indicate that the educational intervention may enhance nurses’ understanding for the patient’s situation (IV), help them deal with own insecurity and powerlessness in communication (III), and increase the value of caring for severely ill and dying patients (III) in addition to reducing work-related stress (IV). An outcome of all the studies in this thesis was that surgical nurses consider it crucial to have time and opportunity to reflect on caring situations together with colleagues. In addition, descriptions in Studies III and IV show the value of relating reflection to a theory or philosophy in order for attitudes to be brought to awareness and for new strategies to be developed.


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