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Working Through Grief and Loss: Oncology Nurses' Perspectives on Professional Bereavement

Jennifer Wenzel
Maya Shaha
Rachel Klimmek
Sharon Krumm
ONF 2011, 38(4), E272-E282 DOI: 10.1188/11.ONF.E272-E282

Purpose/Objectives: To determine facilitators and barriers to managing patient loss from the combined perspectives of oncology nurses and to extract essential components of a supportive intervention.

Research Approach: Qualitative, descriptive.

Setting: The comprehensive National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center of a mid-Atlantic university teaching hospital.

Participants: 34 nurses from inpatient and outpatient adult and pediatric oncology units.

Methodologic Approach: Focus groups were held with oncology staff nurses to identify challenges regarding work-related bereavement, current support for managing grief and loss, and how to support interpersonal functioning and resiliency.

Main Research Variables: Work-related bereavement, bereavement support, and interventions and management strategies for bereavement and loss.

Findings: Two primary themes emerged: dimensions of work-related loss and working through bereavement. Participants also provided many concrete suggestions for the creation of a supportive self-care environment. Conclusions: Support issues were numerous, multilevel, and varied. However, addressing those concerns can improve job satisfaction and decrease compassion fatigue. The findings lay the foundation for appropriate interventions to assist nurses in managing those situations.

Interpretation: Administrators, managers, and individuals interested in furthering the multifaceted goals of oncology care, including nurses themselves, are challenged to create and maintain mutually supportive environments for providing optimal care to patients and families.

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