Community nurses experiences: navigating the emotional journey of palliative care provision

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Rose, J & Glass, N 2007, 'Community nurses experiences: navigating the emotional journey of palliative care provision', paper presented at 4th Biennial NSW Primary Health Care Research & Evaluation Conference, Bondi, NSW, 29-30 November.


Background A doctoral study entitled ‘Emotional work, emotional wellbeing and professional practice: the lived experiences of women community health nurses providing palliative care in the home environment in Australia’ was designed to investigate the experiences of community nurses (CNs) who provide palliative care in the primary health care setting. Whilst palliative care provision does not form the substantive role of a CN generalist, palliative care does remain an important component of the CNs clinical practice. A dearth of literature in the nursing scholarship exploring CNs contribution in palliative care provision contributes further to their professional invisibility and marginalisation. The present research set out to explore the CNs’ individual experiences with a central focus on the relationship between the CNs’ emotional wellbeing and their professional practice. Methodology and methods An emancipatory research approach was undertaken informed by critical social science and feminism. The dual approach within this qualitative study provided a critical lens through which the CNs’ experiences could be explored in a holistic manner. Two research methods were applied: semistructured interviews and reflective journaling. In 2006, following institutional ethics approval, fifteen women research participants located across rural and urban New South Wales were interviewed. The participants were invited to reflect upon their workplace experiences and share stories that related to their emotional wellbeing and professional practice. Results This presentation will explore the findings that were focused on the CNs’ emotional journey with palliative care provision. It was found that CNs had a strong commitment to palliative care despite the many emotional challenges inherent inpatient care. Betty said: ‘Palliative care is the main area that (CNs) feel stressed, emotionally challenged and need debriefing’. Whilst palliative care was a source of job satisfaction, the CNs spoke clearly of their need for improved interpersonal communication within the multidisciplinary team and their essential need for emotional support. The absence of clinical supervision proved concerning for the CNs. Lee stated: ‘[I’ve] actually gone privately to supervision … there has never been the recognition or the infrastructure put in place for nurses’. Tiche remarked: ‘We don’t have any clinical supervision, which is a huge gap I feel. We have each other. We laugh together and cry together and that’s how we survive emotionally’. This research contributes valuable insights into the emotional challenges associated with CNs who provide palliative care and most significantly creates opportunities for enhanced understanding that can bring about positive changes for CNs, health care professionals and the recipients of palliative care services living within the community.