Nurse Experiences as Cancer Survivors: Part II—Professional

Carol Picard

Joan Agretelis

Rosanna F. DeMarco

ONF 2004, 31(3), 537-542. DOI: 10.1188/04.ONF.537-542

Purpose/Objectives: To uncover dimensions of nurses' professional experiences of cancer survivorship.

Design: Interpretive, phenomenologic.

Setting: Metropolitan area in the northeastern United States.

Sample: 25 RNs diagnosed with cancer. Average age was 50 years, and 20 participants were less than five years from initial diagnosis.

Methods: Interviews. Data were analyzed using the methodology of Newman (1994, 1999) and VanManen (1990).

Main Research Variables: Nurses' professional experiences of cancer survivorship.

Findings: Professional experiences of cancer survivorship fell into five themes: (a) role ambiguity, (b) a deepening level of compassion for patients and others, (c) self-disclosure as a therapeutic intervention, (d) becoming an advocate for change, and (e) volunteerism.

Conclusions: Cancer survivorship was a factor in reshaping participants' clinical practice. Experiencing the role of the patient affirmed the necessity of compassionate care for these participants. Nurses experienced a deepening level of compassion for patients and used self-disclosure as a therapeutic intervention. During and shortly after treatment, role ambiguity (being both patient and nurse) could cause difficulties. Nurses took action to change their clinical environment through their influence on colleagues and the healthcare system and by working through other organizations to improve patient care.

Implications for Nursing: Nurse cancer survivors can benefit from the support of colleagues and healthcare providers and an appreciation of the challenge of being both a professional and a patient. The invitation for dialogue as they return to work may help with the challenges of role ambiguity as nurse cancer survivors. Based on this study, nurses value the opportunity to enhance care environments with their two-world knowledge through compassionate care, disclosure, advocacy, and volunteering, and coworkers need to appreciate each nurse's unique response to this potentially life-changing process. Nurses in all settings can learn from their cancer survivor colleagues who have been the recipients of care to reflect on their own clinical practice in the areas of advocacy, sensitivity to patient concerns, and care experiences.

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