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Arch Psychiatr Nurs. 1989 Jun;3(3):166-72.

Coping with cancer: the spouse's perspective.


This study explored coping difficulties experienced by wives of patients with a diagnosis of cancer. Concomitantly, the study explored the ways in which nurses intervened to help these wives. This study was designed as an exploratory study. The qualitative analysis made use of data derived from responses to open-ended questions presented to the respondents by the interview method. The study sample consisted of 40 wives who acknowledged experiencing coping difficulties in meeting the demands of everyday living as a result of their husband's diagnosis of cancer. Respondents were selected randomly from seven eligible representative settings located in the Mid-Atlantic region until the desired sample number was reached. Wives, who encountered the unexpected and uncontrollable situation of having a husband with diagnosed cancer, experienced a multitude of coping difficulties. In addition, wives underwent psychological disorganization, disequilibrium, and emotional imbalance. They attempted to cope with the resulting imbalance by using their habitual problem-solving behavior patterns and experienced difficulty when seeking situational supports. This, in turn, added to their stress. Wives also reported that their children had coping difficulties. Wives identified listening, talking, caring, availability of nurses to patients and patients' spouses, sensitivity, empathy, and honesty as essential helpful nursing behaviors. The study underscored the importance of viewing wives of cancer patients as unique systems in need of therapeutic support, and reaffirmed a view of nursing as the art of understanding the unique needs of individuals who are experiencing coping difficulties. This study also underscored the key role of psychiatric liaison nurses in providing supportive therapeutic interventions to the spouses of cancer patients as well as to the nursing staff.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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