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Keywords:

  • cancer nursing;
  • caring;
  • chemotherapy;
  • day hospital;
  • phenomenology;
  • role changes

Aims and objectives.  This study sought to explore the nurses’ experience of a day hospital chemotherapy service in an acute general hospital in Northern Ireland and how this compared with their experience of working in an inpatient setting.

Background.  Despite the many changes taking place in cancer care delivery, little research has been conducted on nurses’ experience of working in more acute cancer treatment settings. Research conducted to date has tended to focus on the role of nurses in wards, hospices and palliative care settings.

Design.  This Heideggerian hermeneutic phenomenological study explored nurses’ lived experience of day hospital chemotherapy service.

Method.  Face-to-face focused in-depth interviews were conducted with the total population of nurses who worked in the day hospital at the time of data collection (n = 10). Data analysis involved a two-staged approach, the analysis of narratives and narrative analysis, based on the work of Polkinghorne (1995).

Conclusions.  The nurses’ viewed their experience of the chemotherapy day hospital as having both positive and negative dimensions. The positive dimensions included an increased sense of autonomy and the challenge of developing new skills, while the negative dimension included a perceived decrease in their caring role:

(i) The individual characteristics of the nurse were seen to have a key influence on caring experience;

(ii) Role changes led to a perceived dichotomy between their actual and aspired role and their caring and clinical role.

Relevance to clinical practice.  There is a need to achieve a balance between delivering a clinical role (administering chemotherapy) while maintaining the centrality of the nurse–patient relationship. This can be likened to achieving a balance between ‘nursing the clinic’ alongside ‘nursing the patient’. These findings have implications for the discourse on caring within other outpatient type clinics and discourse on cancer nursing as therapy and the culture of the cancer clinic.