Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 21, Issue 6, pp 1551–1556 | Cite as

The perceptions and experiences of nurses and bereaved families towards bereavement care in an oncology unit

  • Helen Y. L. Chan
  • Lai Ha Lee
  • Carmen W. H. Chan
Original Article



Existing bereavement literature focuses on the care provided in palliative care units or community settings. However, nurses in oncology units are in a unique position to provide bereavement care, which is care extended to the families after the death of cancer patients. This study aimed to explore the perceptions and experiences of bereavement care among nurses and bereaved family members in an oncology unit in Hong Kong.


Semi-structured qualitative interviews were carried out in one oncology unit in Hong Kong with 15 nurses and ten bereaved family members. All interviews were audiotaped, transcribed verbatim and analysed by using qualitative content analysis.


Among the bereaved family members, three themes emerged: being informed, being supported and being with the patient before and after the patient’s death. Among the oncology nurses, however, the three identified themes were: elements of good bereavement care, emotional response in providing bereavement care and educational needs in the provision of bereavement care. Comparatively, the experiences of and the opinions on bereavement care identified by the bereaved were more specific than those identified by the nurses.


The findings revealed that there is room for improvement in current bereavement care. Family members were committed to patient care and they expressed their need for more involvement in the patient care, which could result in a positive impact on their grief and loss experience. Nurses were committed to quality care, and they expressed their need for more training on knowledge, skills and attitudes to improve their readiness and competencies in the provision of bereavement care.


Bereavement Oncology Family Nurse Qualitative study 



The authors would like to thank all the participants for their support to the study.

Conflict of interest

This study has not received any financial support. The authors do not have any conflicts of interest to disclose. The authors have full control of all primary data and agree to allow the journal to review their data if requested.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Helen Y. L. Chan
    • 1
  • Lai Ha Lee
    • 2
  • Carmen W. H. Chan
    • 1
  1. 1.The Nethersole School of Nursing, Faculty of MedicineThe Chinese University of Hong KongHong KongChina
  2. 2.Clinical Oncology DepartmentQueen Elizabeth HospitalHong KongChina

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