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Cancer patients’ descriptions of their nursing care


  • Laurel E. Radwin PhD RN,

  • Stephanie L. Farquhar MS RN,

  • Michelle N. Knowles MS APRN-BC OCN,

  • Barbara G. Virchick MS RN APRN-BC CHPN

Laurel Radwin,
Department of Nursing,
College of Nursing and Health Sciences,
University of Massachusetts Boston,
MA 02125,


Aim.  This paper reports a study of cancer patients’ descriptions of nurses and nursing care.

Background.  Nurses lament their poor representation in the media, and campaigns to improve their portrayal have been initiated. Media portrayal of nurses might be more realistic if patients’ descriptions of nursing care were incorporated.

Method.  Qualitative data from an instrument development study were analysed. A total of 461 patients answered the question, ‘In general, how do you feel about nurses?’ The data were analysed by the constant comparative method and grounded theory coding techniques.

Findings.  A typology of four concepts reflecting cancer patients’ descriptions of their nursing care emerged from the data. The concepts were: laudable, caring, professional and outcomes. The concept laudable refers to commendable qualities of the nurse and nursing care. Caring refers to the nurse showing compassion, concern and kindness. Professional refers to the nurse as meeting expected standards of knowledge, skill and demeanour. Outcomes refer to the affective, cognitive, or physical effects attributed to nursing care. Both positive and negative instances of the concepts were included in the analysis. Examples of each concept using patients’ own words are given.

Conclusions.  These cancer patients held nurses in relatively high esteem. These findings could be disseminated to the public press as an example of what patients’ value about nurses and nursing care. They also could be used in media efforts to recruit and retain nurses.