The 2005 Schering Lecture: Touched by a nurse: The imprint of exemplary oncology nursing care

Beth Perry


This paper examines the relationship between exemplary oncology nursing practice and professional fulfillment. What inspires nurses to choose oncology and, subsequently, what gives them impetus to continue in this field? To answer this question, oncology nurses were invited to recall moments in their careers when they were satisfied that they had chosen the “right” career. Data, in narrative form, were collected through an online research technique. Submissions were analysed using three approaches, narrative analysis (Priest, Roberts, & Woods, 2003), poetic interpretation (van Manen, 1990) and photovoice (Woolrych, 2004). Findings reveal that oncology nurses who provide excellent care, and make strong connections with their patients, are also usually very satisfied with their careers. Specifically, nurses provide exemplary care and report attaining professional fulfillment when they achieve connection with those in their care by affirming value and sharing humour. Second, caregivers feel they are making a difference when they “see patients through” the care trajectory. Nurses accomplish this in part by helping people live on, individualizing care, enabling hope, and helping individuals find meaning. It is anticipated that this paper will reawaken memories of similar experiences in caregivers, thus enhancing confidence, self-esteem and energy and reminding nurses that they do unquestionably leave an imprint.

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