The Hidden Side Of Nursing: Why Caring For Patients With Malignant Malodorous Wounds Is So Difficult

Document Type

Journal Article


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science


School of Nursing and Public Health




Wilkes, L. M., Boxer, E., & White, K. (2003). The hidden side of nursing: why caring for patients with malignant malodorous wounds is so difficult. Journal of wound care, 12(2), 76-80. Available here


Objective: This cross-sectional qualitative study used semi-structured telephone interviews with palliative care nurses working in urban and rural settings in Australia to explore their experiences of dealing with patients with malignant, often malodorous, wounds. Method: This paper was the second phase of a research project examining the care of patients with malignant wounds. Of 71 palliative care nurses in New South Wales invited to participate, 26 took part, 17 of them working in community positions. The data from the telephone interviews were transcribed and analysed, using content analysis, and coded for themes relating to the nurses' experiences of caring for this patient group.Results: Nurses working in this setting strove to do the best for patients and their families under circumstances that are emotionally and physically difficult. Some of them suffered personal distress as a consequence. Patient isolation and altered body image are significant challenges for these nurses. Conclusion: The nature of the work these nurses do, in particular the fact that they are dealing with cancers, tends to push them into literal and practical silence. But the researchers question whether this is always the best option. They ask if hiding feelings could be bad for nurses and patients alike. In qualitative research it is not appropriate to generalise the results, although lessons can be learnt from the experience of this group. Declaration of interest: This research was funded by a grant from the University of Western Sydney.




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