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Clinical empathy with cancer patients: a content analysis of oncology nurses’ perception

Authors Rohani C, Sedaghati Kesbakhi M, Mohtashami J

Received 8 November 2017

Accepted for publication 20 March 2018

Published 21 June 2018 Volume 2018:12 Pages 1089—1098


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Johnny Chen

Camelia Rohani,1 Maryam Sedaghati Kesbakhi,2 Jamileh Mohtashami3

1Department of Community Health Nursing, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran; 2Department of Nursing, Nursing School, Tonekabon Branch, Islamic Azad University, Tonekabon, Iran; 3Department of Psychiatric Nursing, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran

Background: Empathy is one of the most important communication skills in clinical practice, specifically in the field of oncology. Empathic competences have a significant meaning for caring and therapeutic relations in nurses’ responsibilities. Clinical empathy brings positive performance, thus patients’ emotions are perceived and expressed more easily. Clinical empathy is contextual, interpersonal and affective, but it is also difficult to study. Awareness of oncology nurses’ perception of this phenomenon might help them to plan for more effective patient-centered consultations within interventional programs. Therefore, the aim of this study was to explore the content of clinical empathy with cancer patients from the perspective of oncology nurses.
Patients and methods: In this qualitative study, 15 oncology nurses were selected by purposive sampling. A semi-structured face-to-face interview was conducted with each of the participants. After data collection, all interviews were transcribed and reviewed, and then primary codes, sub-categories and categories were extracted. The data were analyzed with the conventional content analysis method by MAXQDA 10 software.
Results: Clinical empathy showed a composite construct with five main categories, including co-presence (physical and emotional presence), metacognition (self-awareness of mental processes), perception (knowing about awareness of individuals), inherent (genetic) and didactic (instructive) nature.
Conclusion: Clinical empathy as an effective strategy can be taught through three areas of “co-presence”, “metacognition” and “perception” in the context of cancer care. Thus, clinical empathy should be considered as one of the competency standards which can be taught to oncology nurses.

Keywords: clinical empathy, co-presence, metacognition, oncology nursing, perception, qualitative research

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