Aims and objectives. To investigate the attitude of oncology nurses towards whether and how to disclose diagnoses to patients with early-stage cancer or terminal illness.
Background. The attitudes of patients and doctors towards the disclosure of cancer diagnosis differed from culture to culture. However, little research has focused on the attitudes of Chinese oncology nurses.
Methods. A questionnaire investigating nurses’ attitudes towards truth telling was delivered to 243 Chinese oncology nurses.
Results. One hundred and ninety-nine (81⋅9%) nurses completed the questionnaire. 81⋅4% of the nurses reported that patients with early-stage cancer should be informed of the diagnosis, while only 44⋅2% believed that patients with terminal illnesses should know the truth (p < 0⋅001). Nurses who preferred truth telling reported that patients with early or terminal stages of cancer should be informed by the doctor in charge (76⋅5% vs. 73⋅9%, respectively; p > 0⋅05), immediately after the diagnosis (75⋅9% vs. 79⋅5%, respectively) and in a quiet and undisturbed room (80⋅9% vs. 70⋅5%, respectively; p > 0⋅05). Nurses’ attitudes towards truth telling of terminal cancer were influenced by their educational level and work experience.
Conclusion. Oncology nurses differed in their attitudes towards truth telling of different stages of cancer. Nurses who preferred disclosure reported that cancer patients should be informed by the doctor in charge immediately after the diagnosis and in a quiet and undisturbed room.
Relevance to clinical practice. Many Chinese doctors, patients and their relatives believed that patients with terminal illness should not know their diagnosis. Thus, oncology nurses need additional training to deal with these situations.