Journal of Professional Nursing

Oncology nurses' perception of cancer pain: A qualitative exploratory study

Alicia Garcia, MN, RN, Clinical Teaching Associate, Massey University, School of Nursing, Palmerston North, NZ
Dean Whitehead, PhD, MSc, BEd, RN, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia
Helen S. Winter, MSc (oncology), BSc (hons), MBBS, Regional Cancer Treatment Service, MidCentral District Health Board, Palmerston North, NZ

Reference:  Garcia, A., Whitehead, D. & Winter, H.S. (2015). Oncology nurses' perception of cancer pain:  A qualitative exploratory study. Nursing Praxis in New Zealand, 31(1), 27-33. 



Cancer pain and its management are complex and may impact on many aspects of a cancer patient's journey.  Despite advances in understanding the aetiology of cancer pain and pharmacological developments, the limited effectiveness of pain treatment remains a challenge for health professionals.  Many patients with cancer continue unnecessarily to experience severe unrelieved pain.  The present research was conducted to explore how oncology nurses perceive cancer pain in patients for whom they provide care.  Five Registered Nurses working in a New Zealand oncology ward were purposefully sampled.  Semi-structured interviews were audio0-recorded and transcribed verbatim.  Subsequently transcripts were analysed using thematic/content analysis.  The findings offer insight into how nurses themselves respond to under-treatment of cancer pain.  Responses such as frustration, helplessness and emotional distress were reported.  Findings of this study were consistent with existing literature, namely identification of shortfalls in training and education, lack of comprehensive assessment of pain, and deficits in pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatment of pain.  The study highlights the need for improvement in these areas and identifies the need to further explore issues of cancer pain management with patients themselves.

Cancer pain; oncology nurses; pain assessment; pain management; education 

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