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Keywords:

  • existential;
  • intervention;
  • mixed methods;
  • pilot study;
  • randomised controlled study;
  • surgical nurses

This is a randomised controlled pilot study using a mixed methods design. The overall aim was to test an educational intervention on existential issues and to describe surgical nurses’ perceived attitudes towards caring for patients dying of cancer. Specific aims were to examine whether the educational intervention consisting of lectures and reflective discussions, affects nurses’ perceived confidence in communication and to explore nurses’ experiences and reflections on existential issues after participating in the intervention. Forty-two nurses from three surgical wards at one hospital were randomly assigned to an intervention or control group. Nurses in both groups completed a questionnaire at equivalent time intervals: at baseline before the educational intervention, directly after the intervention, and 3 and 6 months later. Eleven face-to-face interviews were conducted with nurses directly after the intervention and 6 months later. Significant short-term and long-term changes were reported. Main results concerned the significant long-term effects regarding nurses’ increased confidence and decreased powerlessness in communication, and their increased feelings of value when caring for a dying patient. In addition, nurses described enhanced awareness and increased reflection. Results indicate that an understanding of the patient's situation, derived from enhanced awareness and increased reflection, precedes changes in attitudes towards communication.