• closeness;
  • ethnographic;
  • focus group;
  • involvement;
  • nurse–patient interaction;
  • psychosocial

• A combination of focus group and individual interviews aimed to examine psychosocial aspects of nursing within a social context and social knowledge held by two teams of ward-based oncology nurses.

• Five core categories of knowledge emerged: knowledge of how to care, knowledge of the patient, knowledge of the ward, knowledge of nurses coping, and knowledge of involvement.

• Involvement or emotional closeness was seen as a necessary, inevitable and potentially stressful feature of psychosocial care.

• The authors conclude that interpersonal and professional aspects of nursing must be balanced in order to provide effective psychosocial care.