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Faith and protection: the construction of hope by parents of children with leukemia and their oncologists

Salmon, P., Hill, J., Ward, J., Gravenhorst, K., Eden, T. and Young, B. (2012) Faith and protection: the construction of hope by parents of children with leukemia and their oncologists. The Oncologist, 17 (3). pp. 398-404. ISSN 1549-490X

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1634/theoncologist.2011-0308

Abstract/Summary

Background. Oncologists are criticized for fostering unrealistic hope in patients and families, but criticisms reflect a perspective that is oversimplified and “expert” guidance that is ambiguous or impractical. Our aim was to understand how pediatric oncologists manage parents' hope in practice and to evaluate how they address parents' needs. Methods. Participants were 53 parents and 12 oncologists whom they consulted across six U.K. centers. We audio recorded consultations approximately 1–2, 6, and 12 months after diagnosis. Parents were interviewed after each consultation to elicit their perspectives on the consultation and clinical relationship. Transcripts of consultations and interviews were analyzed qualitatively. Results. Parents needed hope in order to function effectively in the face of despair, and all wanted the oncologists to help them be hopeful. Most parents focused hope on the short term. They therefore needed oncologists to be authoritative in taking responsibility for the child's long-term survival while cushioning parents from information about longer-term uncertainties and being positive in providing information about short-term progress. A few parents who could not fully trust their oncologist were unable to hope. Conclusion. Oncologists' pivotal role in sustaining hope was one that parents gave them. Most parents' “faith” in the oncologist allowed them to set aside, rather than deny, their fears about survival while investing their hopes in short-term milestones. Oncologists' behavior generally matched parents' needs, contradicting common criticisms of oncologists. Nevertheless, oncologists need to identify and address the difficulty that some parents have in fully trusting the oncologist and, consequently, being hopeful.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Psychology
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Psychopathology and Affective Neuroscience
ID Code:41761
Publisher:AlphaMed Press

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