Counseling is a brief psycho-educational intervention that is useful in facilitating personal growth and adaptive resolution of life stresses. With increased recognition on the psycho-emotional needs of patients with cancer, it is prudent to consider the possibility of expanding the role of nurses in the provision of counseling.
This qualitative systematic review aimed to establish the best available evidence on the experiences of adult cancer patients receiving counseling provided by nurses.
This review included studies on adult cancer patients of at least 18 years of age who were diagnosed with oncological malignancies of any type and staging. The phenomena of interest were the experiences of adult cancer patients who received nurse counseling (patient education, psycho-education and/or supportive counseling) that was conducted face-to-face or via other communication modes. The review included studies done in institutional and community settings. Qualitative data including, but not limited to, designs of phenomenology, grounded theory, ethnography, action research, feminist research and mixed methods research were considered.
A three-step search strategy was utilized to find both published and unpublished studies in the English language. Databases searched included CINAHL, MEDLINE, Embase, JSTOR, PsycINFO, Scopus, ScienceDirect, Wiley Online Library and ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global. Two reviewers independently appraised the 14 included studies using the Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) critical appraisal checklist for qualitative research. The studies were of moderate to high quality, mostly, falling short in quality due to lack of statements locating the researchers and their influence on the research. Data were extracted from included papers using the standardized JBI data extraction tool.
Two reviewers independently reviewed and pooled similar findings into categories. All three reviewers then collaborated in finalizing these derived categories to generate a meta-synthesis.
Five synthesized findings were generated during the meta-synthesis: (1) Nurses provide tailored information and teaching to enhance patients’ coping; (2) Nurses attend to patients’ emotional needs; (3) Nurses assume the role of a significant person in the patients’ journey; (4) Patients feel valued as a whole person and the ready availability of nursing interactions; and (5) Nursing role ambiguity and time constraints limit nurse counseling.
Overall, cancer patients’ experiences with nurse counseling are positive and beneficial to them. Despite some nursing role ambiguity and time constraints impeding nurse counseling, this review has established the diverse instrumental roles nurses have played in enhancing adaptive coping in patients across their illness trajectory. In particular, the nurses’ presence and availability, a trusting nurse-patient relationship, use of psychotherapy techniques, a holistic approach, human touch and continuity of care were highlighted as key factors in enhancing healing. The role of the nurse navigator and the use of expressive writing warrant more attention when tending to patients’ psycho-emotional distress.