Chronic grief experiences of nurses caring for the end-stage cancer patients: A mixed-method research

Indian J Cancer. 2021 Sep 14. doi: 10.4103/ijc.IJC_494_19. Online ahead of print.


Background: : Caring patients with terminal illness is one of the most challenging and difficult experiences encountered by nurses. Though they face immense grief while preparing these patients and their families to accept the illness, the grief experienced by the nurse is reported to be an insignificant entity due to their professional role and commitment to duty. On the other hand, ignoring this caring relationship can foster emotional burden and physical exhaustion among nurses leading to ineffective quality care. The present study aimed to capture the chronic grief experiences and the coping strategies of nurses caring for patients with advanced cancers.

Methods: : A sequential explanatory mixed-method design was adopted for the study. From September 2016 till March 2017, 50 nurses from three oncology care hospitals in Mangalore were selected using purposive sampling (homogeneous sampling). Modified grief experience inventory followed with in-depth interviews with the oncology nurses to identify their grief, work-related challenges, bereavement, and coping strategies was carried out. Quantitative analysis was carried out using SPSS version 16. Interviews were analyzed using Colaizzi's method of qualitative analysis, and a meta-matrix was developed to merge the results.

Results: : The mean numbers of nurses who experienced moderate level of grief are 83.24 (standard deviation: ± 17.4, range: 51-125). Six themes emerged from the interviews were grief over circumstances, sense of powerlessness, physical and emotional exhaustion, engaging in self-controlling behaviors, self-nurturance, and compassion satisfaction.

Conclusion: : Nurses face unique challenges while caring for patients with end-stage cancer, but timely debriefing strategies could be further explored to improve these experiences and improve nurse's efficiency in providing quality care to these patients.

Keywords: Cancer; chronic grief; nurses.