Aim. This paper reports a study exploring district nurses’ experiences of providing palliative care for patients with cancer and their families.
Background. There is an increasing demand for palliative care in the community, as many patients wish to die at home. District nurses are central to providing palliative care in the community, but there is a dearth of literature on district nurses’ experiences in palliative care.
Method. A Husserlian phenomenological approach was adopted with a purposive sample of 25 female district nurses. Data were collected using unstructured, tape-recorded interviews and analysed using Colaizzi's seven stages of data analysis.
Findings. Four themes were identified: the communication web; the family as an element of care; challenges for the district nurse in symptom management and the personal cost of caring.
Conclusions. District nurses’ experiences of providing palliative care to family units was challenging but rewarding. The emotive nature of the experience cannot be under-estimated, as many district nurses were touched by the varying situations. Whilst acknowledging the need to maintain an integrated approach to care, district nurses should be identified as the key workers in the complex situation of palliative care.