Health care professionals' perspectives of the experiences of family caregivers during in-patient cancer care

J Fam Nurs. 2014 Nov;20(4):462-86. doi: 10.1177/1074840714556179. Epub 2014 Nov 10.


Being a family member of a patient who is being treated in an acute care setting for cancer often involves a number of challenges. Our study describes Norwegian cancer care health professionals' perceptions of family members who served as family caregivers (FCs) and their need for support during the in-hospital cancer treatment of their ill family member. Focus group discussions were conducted with a multidisciplinary team of 24 experienced social workers, physicians, and nurses who were closely involved in the patients' in-hospital cancer treatment and care. Drawing on qualitative hermeneutic analysis, four main themes describe health professionals' perceptions of FCs during the patient's in-hospital cancer care: an asset and additional burden, infinitely strong and struggling with helplessness, being an outsider in the center of care, and being in different temporalities. We conclude that it is a challenge for health care professionals to support the family and create room for FC's needs in acute cancer care. System changes are needed in health care, so that the patient/FC dyad is viewed as a unit of care in a dual process of caregiving, which would enable FCs to be given space and inclusion in care, with their own needs simultaneously considered alongside those of the patient.

Keywords: Norway; cancer; family caregivers; family-focused care; health care professional’s perceptions of family; in-patient cancer care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Family / psychology*
  • Family Nursing / organization & administration*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Inpatients
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / nursing*
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Norway
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / psychology*
  • Professional-Family Relations*