Rates of burnout and compassion fatigue among oncology nurses are rising, and the emotional impact of the work increases the risk. This study examined how oncology nurses describe the evolution of emotions
from first significant patient loss through cumulative patient death.
To explore the emotional evolution of being an oncology nurse
Semistructured interviews with 7 oncology nurses. Thematic analysis was used to analyze the data.
Participant’s mean age was 41.3 years, with 13.9 years of nursing experience and 10.6 years of oncology experience. One metatheme, “riding the roller coaster,” described the overall emotional experience of the nurses. Three subthemes, “all in and then,” “finding your way,” and “impact on self,” further outlined the process taken to cope with workplace emotions
Oncology nurses are frequently exposed to loss and suffering. Findings from this study suggest that new nurses are underprepared for the emotional experience of being an oncology nurse
. Further, they define their emotional boundaries in isolation and without guidance on how to develop healthy coping skills. Changing the culture of silence around mental health and well-being among healthcare professionals can provide space for important conversations to occur.
Implications for Practice
Oncology nurses have few resources to teach them how to cope with the emotions
experienced while caring for oncology patients. These findings suggest that alternative approaches to the traditional bereavement programs and innovative interventions offered to new oncology nurses within their first few years are needed.