Do enhanced recovery after lung cancer surgery programs risk putting primacy of caring at stake? A qualitative focus group study on nurses' perspectives

Malene Missel*, Malene Beck, Pernille Orloff Donsel, René Horsleben Petersen, Patricia Benner

*Corresponding author for this work


AIMS AND OBJECTIVES: To gain insight into nursing in an enhanced recovery after surgery program for lung cancer, we explored its meaning for nurses in a thoracic surgery unit.

BACKGROUND: Since nurses play a key role in overcoming implementation barriers in enhanced recovery after surgery programs, successful implementation depends on their care approach during the surgery pathway.

DESIGN: Qualitative focus group study.

METHODS: A hermeneutic approach inspired by Gadamer guided the research. Sixteen thoracic surgery nurses participated in focus group interviews. Benner and Wrubel's primacy of caring theory enhanced understanding of the findings. COREQ guidelines were followed.

RESULTS: The thoracic surgery nurses compared the streamlined trajectory in the program to working in a factory. Shifting focus away from a dialogue-based, situated care practice compromised their professional nursing identity. The program made combining scientific evidence with patients' lifeworld perspectives challenging. Although the nurses recognised that the physiological processes and positive outcomes promoted recovery, they felt each patient's life situation was not sufficiently considered. To meet the program's professional nursing responsibilities and provide comprehensive care, specialised thoracic nursing should continue after discharge to allow professional care while meaningfully engaging with the patient's situatedness and lifeworld.

CONCLUSIONS: Primacy of caring risks being compromised if accelerated treatment is implemented uncritically. If care is based on the dominant rational justifications underpinning surgical nursing, living conditions and patient values might be overlooked, affecting how disease, illness and health are managed.

RELEVANCE TO CLINICAL PRACTICE: Our findings focus on obvious unintended consequences of enhanced recovery after surgery programs. To avoid dehumanising patients, surgical lung cancer programs must adopt a humanistic attitude in a caring practice guided by the moral art and ethics of care and responsibility.

PUBLIC CONTRIBUTION: To reminding us of what matters and helping us think differently, we discussed the results of the study with organisational stakeholders.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Clinical Nursing
Issue number13-14
Pages (from-to)4037-4048
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023


  • Humans
  • Focus Groups
  • Qualitative Research
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Lung Neoplasms/surgery
  • Nurses


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