Background. In Sweden women with newly diagnosed breast cancer are admitted to surgical wards in order to undergo surgery and receive postoperative care. On these wards, nursing staff take care of women both with newly diagnosed breast cancer and those with cancer in advanced stages. Nurses have to meet the varying needs of patients and their relatives.
Aim. To describe nurses' opinions of the need for care and support for women and their relatives in connection with surgery for breast cancer, as well as their own need for support on a surgical ward.
Methods. Thirty-one nurses from a surgical ward participated in semi-structured interviews. The interviews were tape-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Thereafter a step-by-step, qualitative content analysis was carried out.
Results. The nurses described the need to talk and receive information as being the most important among women and their relatives, as well as among themselves. Only a few nurses mentioned the need for physical care among the women. Contact with relatives was described as being almost nonexistent. There was a discrepancy between what nurses described as important needs and how these needs were provided for.
Conclusion. This study shows that what the nurses described as being the most important needs, and the way how these needs were provided for, was more often seen from a theoretical point of view with few examples of self-experienced situations in the daily care . Needs among women and their relatives seemed to be not fully known to nurses and therefore, possibly, were not met. Nurses themselves had a pronounced need for support, which was sometimes unsatisfactorily met.