• cancer;
  • negative attitude;
  • nurses;
  • perceptions;
  • positive attitude

This paper reports the findings of a qualitative descriptive study, which explored the meaning of ‘positive attitude’ for a group of oncology nurses. Unstructured interviews were conducted with eight female nurses who volunteered to participate in the study. The importance and impact of attitude to patients with cancer and definitions of positive and negative attitude as perceived by nurses were key concepts addressed. The audio-taped interviews were transcribed and analysed for themes that related to positive attitude and cancer. The nurses perceived hope and positive attitude as similar and used three broad themes to describe this multifaceted construct: acceptance, a fighting spirit and looking on the bright side. The nurses perceived to have a major influence on the positive attitude of the cancer patient. However, they acknowledged their obligation to support and encourage patients to maintain a sense of positivity based on patient's values and beliefs.