Oncology patient perceptions of nurse caring actions: A hermeneutic phenomenology study


December 2022

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Feeling “cared for,” commonly articulated as a positive emotion, is a feeling rooted in developing connected, caring relationships. According to Duffy (2010), the feeling of being cared for by a nurse delivering care is an underlying expectation of patients. When addressing the aspect of patient satisfaction and impacting the patient experience, emphasis on how patients perceive care through nurse actions remains a gap in current literature. Nurses need to be cognizant of their patient’s perception of their caring actions that contribute to their overall experience. Knowing these perceptions and expectations from the patients’ perspective, nurses can incorporate caring into relationships by utilizing the patient’s lived experience as a guide. This hermeneutic phenomenological study utilized qualitative semi-structured one-on-one interviews to gain an understanding of the oncology patients lived experience of feeling cared for by sharing their stories of times they felt cared for and times they did not. Each interview was recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed through the approach of naïve reading, structural analysis, and phenomenological interpretation (Ricoeur, 1981). The study sample (n=12) comprised adult men and women with varied cancer diagnoses seeking oncology care in the outpatient setting. Findings from this study revealed the different ways patients perceived and interpreted caring through the nurse caring actions they witnessed during their care experience. These perceptions helped define the meaning of caring and identify the caring actions that impacted their well-being and served as memorable encounters in their cancer-fighting journeys. Participant interviews uncovered three overarching paradoxical rhythms revealing that the “little things” a nurse did or did not do were the “make or break” actions: (a) knowing me-not knowing me; (b) time for me- no time for me; (c) lessening my fear-leaving me in despair.



Caring, Phenomenology, Oncology, Patient Perception