Cancer patients' expressions of emotional cues and concerns and oncology nurses' responses, in an online patient-nurse communication service

Patient Educ Couns. 2012 Jul;88(1):36-43. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2012.01.007. Epub 2012 Feb 11.


Objective: To (1) investigate emotional cues and concerns (C&C) of cancer patients expressed in e-mail communication with oncology nurses in an online patient-nurse communication service (OPNC), and (2) explore how nurses responded to patients' C&C.

Methods: 283 e-messages sent from 38 breast and 22 prostate cancer patients and 286 e-responses from five oncology nurses were coded with the Verona Coding Definitions of Emotional Sequences.

Results: We identified 102 cues and 33 concerns expressed in patients' messages. Cues indicating expression of uncertainty or hope, occurred most frequently (in 38.5% of messages), followed by concerns (in 24.4% of messages). Nurses responded to 85.2% of patients' C&Cs; more than half of patients' C&Cs were met with a mixture of information giving and empathic responses.

Conclusion: Patients with breast and prostate cancer express many C&C in e-mail communications with oncology nurses, who demonstrated satisfactory sensitivity to patients' emotions in their responses to patients.

Practice implications: Offering e-communication with oncology nurses to cancer patients is a promising and feasible supplement to usual care to address and relieve patients' concerns and emotional distress during illness and recovery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breast Neoplasms / nursing
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Cues*
  • Electronic Mail*
  • Emotions*
  • Empathy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Norway
  • Nurse-Patient Relations*
  • Nurses / psychology
  • Oncology Nursing
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / nursing
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Videotape Recording