Lung Cancer

Nursing care

Nurses have a wide range of duties, which may include personal care, observations, wound care, monitoring intravenous infusions, giving injections and other drugs, listening to patients' concerns, helping with practical matters (such as obtaining benefits), and writing reports.

People came into contact with nurses at every stage of their illness; in the outpatient departments, in the wards, and at home. In the outpatient department a nurse often calls patients into the consulting room. One man said that he found it upsetting when he was treated in an unusually sympathetic manner before he had received the diagnosis. At that stage he would have preferred to have been treated just like other patients.

Having received the 'bad news' in the consulting room, patients were glad to have the support of a specially trained lung cancer nurse. Nurses sometimes offered reassurance and sympathy, answered questions, explained treatment; they also supplied a cup of tea or coffee, helped to communicate bad news to others, and advised people about benefits.

With treatment planned, one woman was grateful for the way in which the lung cancer specialist nurse helped her to prepare for her chemotherapy. The nurse took her to the chemotherapy ward, where other nurses explained what was going to happen.

Most people recalled the excellent nursing care they received once they were in hospital, and people mentioned that nurses made time to talk to them about their families, to listen to their problems, or to share a joke. 

One woman described a day when she was crying and was comforted by a Macmillan nurse, and a man remembered a night when good bedside nursing helped to relieve his respiratory distress. One man said that a Macmillan nurse helped to speed up his treatment when delays occurred.

Some people said that they liked being cared for by a 'particular' nurse. However, one man observed that although a 'named nurse' was a good idea in principle, it did not always work in practice. 

Nurses were often seen to be overworked, particularly on the surgical wards. A man, for example, quoted earlier, said that although the nurses did an 'incredible job', he would have liked to have had more TLC (tender, loving care) after his operation, and another man complained that he hadn't received a lot of sympathy after his lobectomy. Occasionally communication broke down (see 'Talking to doctors and the care you received').

Those living at home were usually supported by a Macmillan nurse, a district nurse, or a specialist hospice nurse. Many areas have palliative care nurses, who are not Macmillan nurses but provide the same service. Depending on people's needs, nurses removed people's stitches or provided other nursing care, answered questions about the side effects of treatment, and organised practical help such as an extra mattress, or a grab rail for the shower. They also provided information about benefits or parking permits. Nurses also supported families. People were glad that they could call a nurse at any time during the day or night (see also 'Support for people with lung cancer', and 'Financial help').

Some people did not want a nurse to call at their home. One woman, for example, said that she did not want a nurse after her operation because she felt she was cured and she wanted to forget she had ever had cancer. However, others would have liked to have had a bit more support when they got home. This suggests that some negotiation about frequency and type of contact with nurses would be useful.

One woman recalled that she felt a bit shaken when a 'palliative' care nurse arrived at her house. She was taken aback because she thought that 'palliative' care implied she was no longer receiving active treatment. One hospice nurse was clearly aware of the possible distress that this might cause and suggested she should be thought of as a 'district nurse'.

Another woman was upset when she was introduced to a nurse from the local hospice during a consultation with a specialist. After the consultation the nurse offered her a long weekend in the hospice. At that time the woman felt well, and she found the conversation shocking.

Last reviewed May 2016.


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