Finding meaning in life: an exploration on the experiences with dependence on care of patients with advanced cancer and nurses caring for them

Finding meaning in life: an exploration on the experiences with dependence on care of patients with advanced cancer and nurses caring for them

Abstract

Purpose

Patients with advanced cancer are likely to face increasing levels of care dependence. Adult patients who become care dependent on others can experience this condition as one of suffering and humiliation. The nurse-patient relationship plays a key role in the experience of dependence. Understanding patients' and nurses' perceptions of care dependence is crucial to addressing the impact it has on the lives of both. The aim of this study is to explore the experiences of patients with cancer and nurses caring for them

Method

A multicentre qualitative study was conducted in Italy using semi-structured interviews with patients with advanced cancer admitted to 3 hospitals, and 9 focus groups with nurses working in oncology wards of 2 hospitals. Data were analysed with inductive content analysis

Results

Thirty-two patients and 44 nurses participated in the study. Three common themes were identified: within dependence, the relationship is a lifeline; dependence is influenced by internal and external factors and dependence generates changes. Dependence impacts on patients' and nurses' lives and implies a process of personal maturing for both. Patients learn the humility to ask for help by exposing their vulnerability. Nurses become aware that a trusting relationship helps patients to accept dependence, and they learn to self-transcend in order to build it.

Conclusions

Striving to build positive relationships implies a change in nurses' and patients' lives. In this way, they come to understand important aspects of life and find meaning in difficult situations. Further studies should explore also homecare settings and patients' families.

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