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Caring in Palliative Care: A Phenomenological Study of Nurses’ Lived Experiences

Parola, Vitor, RN; Coelho, Adriana, RN; Sandgren, Anna, PhD, RN; Fernandes, Olga, PhD, RN; Apóstolo, João, PhD, RN

Journal of Hospice & Palliative Nursing: April 2018 - Volume 20 - Issue 2 - p 180–186
doi: 10.1097/NJH.0000000000000428
Feature Articles

Providing palliative care involves serious challenges for nurses, such as end-of-life decisions, contact with people’s suffering and dying, and increased risk of burnout. However, studies have revealed that the burnout level of health professionals working in palliative care is lower than that of health professionals working in other settings. This study aimed to describe the lived experiences of nurses caring in a palliative care unit. A phenomenological descriptive study was undertaken. Nine nurses were recruited from a palliative care unit in Portugal. Data were collected using individual interviews and analyzed following the method of Giorgi. Five themes reflect the essence of the lived experience: (1) experience centered on the relationship with the other (ie, the patient and the family), (2) experience centered on the relationship with one’s own self, (3) exhausting experience, (4) rewarding experience, and (5) the team as a pillar. These findings can be valuable for understanding the challenges and strategies experienced by nurses caring in palliative care and for designing interventions that focus on reducing the risk of burnout among nurses—not only those working in palliative care but also those working in other contexts who experience regular contact with suffering and death.

Vitor Parola, RN, is PhD student at the Abel Salazar Biomedical Sciences Institute, University of Porto, Portugal; and guest assistant at the Nursing School of Coimbra, Portugal Centre for Evidence-Based Practice: A Joanna Briggs Institute Centre of Excellence.

Adriana Coelho, RN, is PhD student at the Abel Salazar Biomedical Sciences Institute, University of Porto, Portugal; and guest assistant at the Nursing School of Coimbra, Portugal Centre for Evidence-Based Practice: A Joanna Briggs Institute Centre of Excellence.

Anna Sandgren, PhD, RN, is associate professor, Department of Health and Caring Sciences, and director, Center for Collaborative Palliative Care, Linnaeus University, Växjö, Sweden.

Olga Fernandes, PhD, RN, is coordinator professor, Nursing School of Porto, and member of the Group Investigation NurID–Center for Health Technology and Services Research, Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade do Porto, Portugal.

João Apóstolo, PhD, RN, is professor with aggregation, Nursing School of Coimbra, and deputy director, Portugal Centre for Evidence-Based Practice: A Joanna Briggs Institute Centre of Excellence at the Health Sciences Research Unit: Nursing, Nursing School of Coimbra, Portugal.

Address correspondence to Vitor Parola, RN, Avenida Bissaya Barreto, Apartado 7001, 3046-851 Coimbra, Portugal (vitorparola@esenfc.pt).

This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

© 2018 by The Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association.