Research among cancer patients has shown that emotional support in informal relationships may be difficult to access because of a fear or lack of knowledge about cancer. Consequently, formal relationships with healthcare professionals may be important sources of support.
This study explores needs for and experiences with emotional support provided by nurses as well as prerequisites for the provision of support among Danish-born and migrant cancer patients.
We conducted narrative interviews with 18 adult Danish-born and migrant cancer patients. Patients were recruited from a variety of places in a purposive strategic sampling process. Analysis was inspired by phenomenological methods and Simmel's theoretical concept of "the stranger".
Both Danish-born and migrant patients perceived the support delivered by healthcare professionals as available, empathic and valuable. Prerequisites for providing emotional support were 1) setting aside time for the patient to feel safe and able to verbalise emotional concerns, 2) continuity in relationships with healthcare professionals, and 3) nurses' ability to understand the patient's emotional reactions without creating additional distress.
Being positioned as a stranger to the patient gives nurses a unique position from which to provide emotional support during cancer treatment. Thus, formal relationships with healthcare professionals are of great importance for many cancer patients.