What Happens to the Holistic Care of Patients in Busy Oncology Settings?

  • E. Angela ChanEmail author
Part of the The Humanities in Asia book series (HIA, volume 6)


Cancer patients suffer from emotional issues and/or distress, for which they require appropriate care. However, effective communication that translates into recognition of patients’ cues/concerns remains an issue. Barriers to effective communication include nurse shortages, time constraints and limited healthcare communication training for cancer nurses. Exploring how nurses fare in communicating with patients by responding to their cues/concerns for emotional and/or informational needs is important. This ethnographic study examined a busy cancer ward and its nursing care as a subculture. Content analysis from patient interviews was conducted, and a statistical analysis of the nurses’ cue-responding behaviours. Findings revealed that despite no emotional counselling, nurses exhibited positive cue-responding behaviours and patients expressed appreciation for this care. This conclusion is striking at a time when nurses stated there was no time to talk to patients and Hong Kong faces a shortage of nurses, even as the emphasis on holistic care is growing. Findings challenge the cultural expectations of emotional care in oncology wards. The perception that emotional care must be addressed separately from the nurses’ everyday physical and technical care is challenged and should be re-assessed with reintegration of the physical with the emotional in the nursing care provided to patients.


Nursing Cancer Ethnography Descriptive content analysis 



This study was funded by the General Research Fund, PolyU 156003/15H.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of NursingThe Hong Kong Polytechnic UniversityKowloonHong Kong

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