Truth-telling to patients' terminal illness: What makes oncology nurses act individually?

Shu He Huang, Fu In Tang, Chang Yi Liu, Mei Bih Chen, Te Hsin Liang, Shuh Jen Sheu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Purpose: Nurses encounter the challenge of truth-telling to patients' terminal illness (TTPTI) in their daily care activities, particularly for nurses working in the pervasive culture of family protectiveness and medical paternalism. This study aims to investigate oncology nurses' major responses to handling this issue and to explore what factors might explain oncology nurses' various actions. Methods: A pilot quantitative study was designed to describe full-time nurses' (. n=70) truth-telling experiences at an oncology centre in Taipei. The potential influencing factors of nurses' demographic data, clinical characteristics, and truth-telling attitudes were also explored. Results: Most nurses expressed that truth-telling was a physician's responsibility. Nevertheless, 70.6% of nurses responded that they had performed truth-telling, and 20 nurses (29.4%) reported no experience. The reasons for inaction were "Truth-telling is not my duty", "Families required me to conceal the truth", and "Truth-telling is difficult for me". Based on a stepwise regression analysis, nurses' truth-telling acts can be predicted based on less perceived difficulty of talking about "Do not resuscitate" with patients, a higher perceived authorisation from the unit, and more oncology work experience (adjusted R2=24.1%). Conclusions: Oncology care experience, perceived comfort in communication with terminal patients, and unit authorisation are important factors for cultivating nurses' professional accountability in truth-telling. Nursing leaders and educators should consider reducing nursing barriers for truth-telling, improving oncology nurses' professional accountability, and facilitating better quality care environments for terminal patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)492-498
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of Oncology Nursing
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2014


  • Attitude
  • Experience
  • Oncology nurse
  • Terminal cancer
  • Truth telling


Dive into the research topics of 'Truth-telling to patients' terminal illness: What makes oncology nurses act individually?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this