Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Companionship among cancer patients

Roger Watson, Editor-in-Chief

The era of the ‘expert patient’ is here and, while we often articulate the need to listen to patients and may emphasise the importance of mutual support groups, we still see ourselves - nurses - as the primary source of information for patients. After all, we’ve learned about the conditions we manage, we’ve seen hundreds of patients with the condition, we’re up to date with the latest in evidence-based practice and we know where to get information quickly and copiously. We often forget - and I recall no incidence from my clinical experience - that the expert is often sitting next to our patient…and it’s not us; it’s the other patient.

A recent Danish study by Andersen and Birkelund (2014) titled: ‘A companionship between strangers – learning from fellow cancer patients in oncology wards’ and published in JAN reports a study of how hospitalised patients with cancer can learn from each other. The study was use participant observation and interview. The 85 patients, who had a wide range of cancers and reasons for being hospitalised, reported several aspects to what could be learned from other patients from continuing to fight the disease through to acceptance of the inevitable.

In the words of the authors: ‘Learning from exchanges of experiences with fellow patients provided a better understanding about the disease and was valued because it was first-hand knowledge. Patients’ personal experience of disease is an underused resource in nursing’.


Andersen LS, Larsen BH, Birkelund R (2014) A companionship between strangers – learning from fellow cancer patients in oncology wards Journal of Advanced Nursing doi: 10.1111/jan.12490

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