Experiences of gynecological cancer patients receiving care from specialist nurses: a qualitative systematic review

Olivia Cook, Meredith McIntyre, K Recoche, Susan Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: The care needs of women with gynecological cancer are complex and change over the course of their cancer journey. Specialist nurses are well positioned to play a role in meeting the needs of women with gynecological cancer although their role and scope of practice have not been well defined. As patients are a key stakeholder, understanding their experience of care is an important step in better defining the role and scope of practice of specialist nurses in gynecological oncology in Australia and New Zealand.

OBJECTIVES: This review sought to consider gynecological cancer patients' experiences of specialist nursing care. Exploring the patient's experience of care by a specialist nurse is one step in the process of better defining the role and scope of practice of specialist gynecological-oncology nurses in Australia and New Zealand.

INCLUSION CRITERIA TYPES OF PARTICIPANTS: This review included studies with a focus on women with gynecological cancer who had been cared for by a specialist nurse. Studies of women with gynecological cancer at any point on the continuum of care from pre-diagnosis to survivorship or end of life, including those with a recurrence of the disease, were included, with no limit to the duration of care received for inclusion in the review.

PHENOMENA OF INTEREST: Studies that explored how women with gynecological cancer experience the care and interventions of specialist nurses were included.

TYPES OF STUDIES: Qualitative studies including, but not limited to, designs such as phenomenology, grounded theory, ethnography, action research and feminist research were considered for review. This review also considered the qualitative components of mixed method studies.

CONTEXT: Research conducted in any country was considered for inclusion in this review providing that the study was reported in English. Studies conducted in any setting including, but not limited to, acute hospitals, outpatient/ambulatory clinics, chemotherapy or radiotherapy units, support groups, palliative care units or the patient's home were included.

SEARCH STRATEGY: A three-step search strategy was utilized in this review. An initial limited search of MEDLINE and CINAHL was undertaken followed by a comprehensive search using all identified keywords and index terms across all included databases. The reference lists of all identified reports and articles were hand searched for additional studies.

METHODOLOGICAL QUALITY: Each paper was independently assessed by two independent reviewers for methodological validity prior to inclusion in the review using the standardized critical appraisal instrument from the Joanna Briggs Institute the Qualitative Assessment and Review Instrument. When disagreement arose between the reviewers, the given paper was independently appraised by a third reviewer.

DATA EXTRACTION: Data were extracted from papers included in the review using the standardized data extraction tool from Joanna Briggs Institute the Qualitative Assessment and Review Instrument. Data extraction was completed independently by two reviewers.

DATA SYNTHESIS: Extracted findings from seven included papers were grouped according to similarity in meaning from which 11 categories were developed. These categories were then subjected to a meta-synthesis that produced a set of three synthesized findings.

RESULTS: Key findings were extracted from six included papers and classified as unequivocal (U) or credible (C). A total of 30 findings were extracted and aggregated into 11 categories based on similarity in meaning. From the 11 categories, three synthesized findings were developed: i) Tailored care: specialist nurses play a role in understanding and meeting the individual needs of women with gynecological cancer; ii) Accessible care: specialist nurses guide women with gynecological cancer along the continuum of care and are an easily accessed source of knowledge and support; iii) Dependable expertise: women with gynecological cancer express trust and reassurance in the experience and expertise of the specialist nurse.

CONCLUSIONS: This systematic review synthesized the findings of seven studies that captured the experiences of women with gynecological cancer who received care from a specialist nurse. The specialist nurse offers tailored, accessible and expert care to women with gynecological cancer. From the synthesis it is recommended that women with gynecological cancer have access to the services of a specialist nurse at key points on the continuum of care, that specialist nurses provide information to patients on their disease and treatment in the form preferred by the patient and ensure that this information has been understood, and that specialist nurses are afforded time to spend with patients to enable greater exploration and identification of patient needs and the provision of personalized care. Further study that considers other key stakeholders in the specialist nurse role in gynecological oncology is recommended in order to gain a full understanding of specialist nurses' contribution to the care of women with gynecological cancer. Additionally, it is recommended that further studies be conducted to seek the perspectives of women with gynecological cancer from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and Indigenous populations on specialist nursing care as they appear to be under-represented in current research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2087-2112
Number of pages26
JournalThe JBI Database of Systematic Reviews and Implementation Reports
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017


  • advanced practice nursing
  • gynecological cancer
  • oncology nursing
  • specialist nursing
  • women's experience

Cite this