Observations of the communication practices between nurses and patients in an oncology outpatient clinic

Anne Prip, Kathrine Hoffmann Pii, Kirsten Alling Møller, Dorte Lisbet Nielsen, Sally E. Thorne, Mary Jarden

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Purpose: Effective communication in cancer care and treatment is linked to better health outcomes, improved treatment adherence, and improved quality of life for cancer patients. While the characteristics of effective communication have been identified, there is sparse knowledge about the current conditions for providing effective communication especially within the outpatient clinical context, where the majority of cancer patients are currently being treated. This study aimed to explore communication practices between nurses and patients undergoing chemotherapy in an outpatient clinic to gain insight into how patients are supported in this setting. Methods: Data were collected through 70 h of participant observations of nurse-patient interactions supplemented with ad hoc interviews with nurses in an oncology outpatient clinic. The methodology and data analysis are guided by interpretive description, thematic analysis and symbolic interactionism. Results: Three themes were generated that characterised communication in the outpatient clinic: Treatment-centred communication, efficient communication and spatially-bound communication. While there was good opportunity for patients to learn about treatment and side effects during cancer treatment, psychosocial concerns were rarely addressed. Conclusions: The outpatient setting influences the type and quality of communication between nurses and patients. Improvement of communication should include not only verbal and written information, but focus on the importance of nonverbal communication in the oncology outpatient clinic. Furthermore, there is a need to make environmental adjustments that can facilitate the opportunity for patients to express their needs and for nurses to respond to them.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Oncology Nursing
Issue numberJune
Pages (from-to)120-125
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019


  • health, nutrition and quality of life
  • Ambulatory chemotherapy
  • Communication
  • Description
  • Interpretive
  • Outpatient care
  • Participant observation
  • Patient-nurseinteraction
  • Symbolic interactionism


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