Aim. To describe the characteristics of health promoting contacts with health professionals as encountered by individuals with head and neck cancer.
Background. Head and neck cancer has a profound and chronic impact on the individual’s everyday life, e.g. physical problems that hinder speaking, breathing, eating and drinking. Furthermore, fear and uncertainty can lead to long-term psychological and psychosocial problems. The National Institute of Public Health in Sweden advocates that all care contacts should improve the quality of the individual’s health.
Design. A qualitative descriptive and explorative design was used. Eight participants were interviewed in the year 2005 and a qualitative thematic content analysis of the data was performed.
Findings. Health promoting contacts were defined as contacts where health care professionals contribute positively to the well-being of individual patients. Characteristics include being available, engaged, respectful and validating. Three themes were identified: being believed in one’s illness story; having a working relationship with health professionals and receiving individualised, tailored care.
Conclusions. Health promoting contacts were experienced mainly during the treatment phase, when patients had daily contact with specific, qualified health professionals. Although the interview questions focused on health promoting contacts, nearly half of the contacts were experienced as not health promoting. Feelings of abandonment were particularly manifested before and after treatment. The starting point for achieving health promoting contact lies in understanding the patient’s lifeworld in relation to health, illness and suffering and focusing on the individual’s personal strengths and health resources.
Relevance to clinical practice. The findings highlighted the importance of ensuring that patient interests and concerns are core considerations in health care. The participants viewed continuing individualised, tailored care and access to ear, nose and throat healthcare professionals as highly important.
2009. Vol. 1, no 3, 261-268 p.
head and neck cancer; health professionals; health promoting contacts; individualised tailored care; patient centred care; supportive team