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Experiences of Oncology and Palliative Care Nurses When Supporting Parents Who Have Cancer and Dependent Children

Journal title
Cancer nursing
Publication year
Arber, A.; Odelius, A.

BACKGROUND: It is important not to ignore the impact of parental cancer on children, and this is where oncology and palliative care nurses can play a key role, providing support to parents as a regular aspect of oncological nursing care. OBJECTIVES: This study explored the experience, needs, and confidence of nurses working in acute cancer services when supporting parents with cancer who have dependent children. METHODS: Two focus group interviews were conducted with oncology and palliative care nurses in 1 acute hospital trust in the south of England. RESULTS: Nurses described how they identified with their patients as a parent themselves. This identification with patients added to the emotionally charged context of care and resulted in nurse avoidance of the troubling issue of dependent children. Nurses identified the importance of peer support with regular opportunities to reflect on practice when dealing with issues relevant to parents and children. CONCLUSIONS: Oncology and palliative care nurses take a reactive approach to family centred care, taking their cue from patients to initiate or request support for their children. IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: Guidance was needed on children’s developmental stages and how to communicate with children of different ages. In addition, guidance was needed on assessing family needs and access to up to date resources. To enable nurses to engage with the issue of children, strategies of peer support and further educational opportunities need to be implemented.

Research abstracts