LEFO - Legeforskningsinstituttet

Institute for Studies of the Medical Profession

IPOQ 2013: Research on health and working conditions of the medical profession

Margaretha Stenmarker

Which strategies do pediatric oncologists use to handle encounters with patients and their families? Results from a qualitative study
7. november 2013

Margaretha Stenmarker is a specialist in pediatrics and pediatric oncology-hematology. She is working as a senior consultant at Ryhov County Hospital, Jönköping, Sweden, and as a research coordinator at Futurum – Academy for Health and Care, Jönköping County Council. She received her PhD from University of Gothenburg, Sweden, for a thesis on pediatric oncologists and their personal resources and difficulties when working with children with cancer. Her research focuses on the medical profession and quality of life aspects/ethical issues in children with malignant disorders.

Which strategies do pediatric oncologists use to handle encounters with patients and their families? Results from a qualitative study  

BACKGROUND. Pediatric oncologists in Sweden participated in a nationwide study with questionnaires in 2006/2007. The study presented personal resources and difficulties for physicians working with children with malignant disorders. To deepen the knowledge concerning the psychological aspects of being a pediatric oncologist interviews were performed in 2007 and 2010/2011. The aim of the present qualitative study was to focus on which strategies the physicians used to handle encounters with patients and their families and potential variations related to years’ of experiences. METHOD. Interviews were conducted with 20 pediatricians of both genders, employed at academic and non-academic medical centers, and active or previously active in pediatric oncology. All participants were selected from the nationwide study. The analyses were performed using the constant comparative method of classical grounded theory. RESULTS. The main concern (the core category) for these physicians regardless of their amount of working experiences was that they had to “face the unbearable”. In order to manage this challenge specific strategies were used labeled: giving support without being too involved, adjusting the burden to one’s capacity but always telling the truth, containing anxiety sometimes close to humor, and working in consensus and still be the expert. CONCLUSIONS. This qualitative study emphasizes aspects of emotional demanding challenges for physicians meeting children with life-threatening diseases and their relatives. Different handling strategies to “meet the unbearable” and the role of experience will be presented at the conference.

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