Authors: Sheila Cunningham, Mike Bater
The preparation of nurses caring for patients with chronic conditions such as cancer remains a topical subject. Nursing curricula emphasizes the breadth of knowledge and caring skills required by nurses to suit all the key long term patient morbidities. Since the incidence of cancer is increasing and is a global problem nurses will come cross patients with cancer as a main or subsidiary condition and thus need an awareness of the care and needs of these patients. Currently, there is limited information on the preparation of pre-registered nursing students and little is known about the experiences of these students, especially during their initial exposure to cancer patients. A British study conducted in 2006  produced several key themes: cancer appears as a wide reaching disease appearing in a variety of clinical areas, students felt scared of discussing cancer and they indicated personal experiences and support structures influenced their outlook on cancer and nursing these patients. This same study repeated ten years on indicates the student demographic is very different as is the attitude towards and of cancer care. The sample is also different (n=134 in 2003-2004 and n=73 in 2016- 2017) however the differences may point to generational differences, general education or greater awareness or exposure to cancer as a chronic condition. Experiences of caring for cancer patients increased from 66% in 2003-4 to 75.34% in 2016-17. Similarly dramatic differences were observed in reported aspects such as confidence to care for cancer patients increased form 34% to 96%, learning most about cancer from caring for cancer patients (from 47% to 68%) and feeling supported by mentors to care for cancer patients (from 39% to 83%). The survey points to some noticeable differences in the reported attitudes and knowledge of cancer in the survey. Planned interviews may elucidate the issues and feelings but are yet to be completed. This paper will further address comparisons within the findings and discuss how this can inform curriculum development for contemporary nurse education.
Keywords: component; pre-registration nurses, experience, cancer care, perceptions