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Oncology Nurses' Perceptions About Palliative Care

Carol Pavlish

Lyn Ceronsky

perceptions, oncology nurses, palliative care
ONF 2007, 34(4), 793-800. DOI: 10.1188/07.ONF.793-800

Purpose/Objectives: To explore oncology nurses' perceptions about palliative care.

Research Approach: Descriptive study with narrative data analysis.

Setting: Oncology units in three midwestern hospitals.

Participants: 33 actively practicing oncology nurses.

Methodologic Approach: Oncology nurses participated in focus groups that elicited concrete experiences and reflections about palliative care. Researchers identified subtexts by which to sort data, worked inductively in each subtext to identify categories, resorted the text according to the categories, carefully examined the category narratives, and established narrative descriptors that captured the essence of each category. Data matrices were constructed to examine the emerging categories more closely.

Main Research Variable: Oncology nurses' perceptions about palliative care.

Findings: Narratives revealed 14 descriptors about palliative care. Considerable agreement occurred in nurses' descriptions about the nature of palliative care. Divergent viewpoints were evident as nurses described how palliative care intersects with other practice areas. Three descriptors of the healthcare context in which palliative care occurs were identified: limited time for addressing complex palliative care issues, health care's emphasis on prolonging life, and the challenge of coordinating care across disciplines.

Conclusions: Participants clearly comprehend palliative care goals. However, divergent perspectives about the intersections of palliative care with oncology nursing may limit timely consultation with specialty palliative care teams. The current acute care context poses challenges to implementing palliative care.

Interpretation: Palliative care teams and oncology nurses need to develop partnership models that clearly illustrate how both partners contribute to palliative care across the continuum of oncology care. Furthermore, the partnership models must address barriers that the acute care context poses to quality palliative care.

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