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Receiving Bad News: A Phenomenological Exploration of the Lived Experience of Receiving a Cancer Diagnosis

Tobin, Gerard A. PhD, MSc, BSc, RGN, RMN, RNT; Begley, Cecily PhD, MSc, FTCD RN, RM

doi: 10.1097/01.NCC.0000305767.42475.7a
Articles

This article explores the process of coming to a place of knowing one's diagnosis of cancer. The study was guided by the philosophy of hermeneutic phenomenology, with data collected via unstructured in-depth interviews. This article focuses on 10 people who received a cancer diagnosis (recipients). The analysis of the recipient narratives offered an interpretation of the phenomenon of receiving bad news as a process occurring over a period of time and not as a one-off event in time. The concept of bad news as a trajectory was clearly evident in the narratives and was represented through 3 themes: "disturbance of the everyday world," "surfacing within the lived world," and "embodiment within the lived world." The findings are consistent with the literature addressing diagnosis and end-of-life issues. Understanding the phenomenon of "knowing" is crucial in helping the healthcare professional recognize the changing information and psychosocial needs of the recipient as they experience the trajectory of bad news.

This article explores the process of coming to a place of knowing one's diagnosis of cancer. The study was guided by the philosophy of hermeneutic phenomenology, with data collected via unstructured in-depth interviews. This article focuses on 10 people who received a cancer diagnosis (recipients). The analysis of the recipient narratives offered an interpretation of the phenomenon of receiving bad news as a process occurring over a period of time and not as a one-off event in time. The concept of bad news as a trajectory was clearly evident in the narratives and was represented through 3 themes: "disturbance of the everyday world," "surfacing within the lived world," and "embodiment within the lived world." The findings are consistent with the literature addressing diagnosis and end-of-life issues. Understanding the phenomenon of "knowing" is crucial in helping the healthcare professional recognize the changing information and psychosocial needs of the recipient as they experience the trajectory of bad news.

Authors' Affiliations: Department of Nursing, College of Health and Human Services, University of New Hampshire, Durham (Dr Tobin); and School of Nursing and Midwifery, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland (Dr Begley).

This study was funded by the Health Research Board Ireland.

Corresponding author: Gerard A. Tobin, PhD, MSc, BSc, RGN, RMN, RNT, Department of Nursing, College of Health and Human Services, University of New Hampshire, Hewitt Hall Room 249, 4 Library Way, Durham, NH 03824 (gerard.tobin@unh.edu).

Accepted for publication February 14, 2008.

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.