Nurses' perspectives on their communication with patients in busy oncology wards: A qualitative study

E. Angela Chan, Pak Lik Tsang, Shirley Siu Yin Ching, F. Y. Wong, Winsome Lam

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Background Despite an increase in emphasis on psychosocial care in cancer nursing, time constraints and nurses' lack of knowledge in skilled communication continue to be challenges. Aims To examine how cancer care nurses view their communication with patients and how they deal with the psychosocial needs of patients in busy wards. Design A qualitative interview study. Methods Focus groups and individual interviews were conducted with eleven hospital-based cancer nurses in Hong Kong from July 2, 2017 to January 2, 2018. Results A qualitative thematic analysis of the data identified three themes: 1. Intentional and unintentional psychosocial care that is secondary in focus; 2. Managing an emotionally challenged environment; 3. Mentoring and learning. Conclusion Oncology settings are time-constrained, emotionally charged environments for nurses, and providing psychosocial care for patients is a secondary concern. While proactive strategies can be used to avert patient complaints, being open and attending to the individual needs of patients is equally important to avoid blocking in nurse-patient communication. Despite emotional entanglement and tensions, the positive follow-up strategies used by nurses to manage the patients' emotions and provide psychosocial care reflect good practices. Leadership and support are needed to deal with the nurses' perception that their communication training has been ineffective and their ability to manage strong emotions deficient. Communication skills, honed by making continuous opportunities to communicate available, as well as an understanding of emotional labour, need to be integrated with mindfulness in the nurses' care of themselves and their patients. Notwithstanding the importance of experience in oncology care for junior nurses, it is necessary for both junior and senior nurses to learn about and reflect upon the different forms of emotional labour if value-based care is to be provided. In addition, it is essential for junior nurses to receive continuous coaching and mentoring, and to engage in reflective learning from each clinical encounter with oncology patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0224178
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'Nurses' perspectives on their communication with patients in busy oncology wards: A qualitative study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this