Patients’ perceptions of their experiences with nurse-patient communication in oncology settings: A focused ethnographic study

Engle Angela Chan, Fiona Wong, Man Yin Cheung, Yuk Yin Lam

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


Background The nursing shortage and its impact on patient care are well-documented global issues. Patients living with cancer as a chronic illness have many psychosocial problems and often lack adequate support as a result of ineffective nurse-patient communication. A review of the literature on factors influencing the delivery of psychosocial care to cancer patients indicates that the delivery of psychosocial care in routine cancer nursing within a biomedical healthcare system has not been widely explored. Objective To explore patients’ perceptions of their experiences with nurse-patient communication in an oncological clinical environment. Method A focused ethnographic study was undertaken in two oncology wards of a hospital in Hong Kong. Data were collected through observations of the ward environment, the activities and instances of nurse-patient communication, semi-structured interviews with patients, and a review of nursing documents. Results Two main themes were identified: 1. Nurses’ workload and the environment and 2. Nurse-patient partnership and role expectations. Within these two themes were related subthemes on: Sympathy for the busy nurses; Prioritizing calls to the nurses; Partnership through relationship; Nurses’ role in psychosocial care; and Reduction of psychosocial concerns through physical care. Conclusions Many cancer patients do not expect to receive psychosocial care in the form of emotional talks or counseling from busy nurses, but appreciate the attention paid by nurses to their physiological and physical needs. Nurse-patient partnerships in cancer care may reduce the potential workload of nurses. The psychosocial needs of cancer patients could be optimized by providing good physical care through effective communication within a time-constrained oncology setting.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0199183
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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