An international study between Denmark and Australia has built an understanding of family assessment practices by oncology nurses. This has provided a platform for further research exploring the oncology patient and family needs. The role of the family varies in different countries. In Australia, family is noted to provide close emotional and physical support. However in Denmark the family may form a less involved role often decided by the patient. The oncology nurse is the key point of contact for the patient and becomes the gatekeeper to inform tailored support.
Aim: To investigate the oncology nurses' family assessment practices.
An investigation of oncology nurses’ family assessment practices was conducted. Focus groups  were conducted with oncology nurses in both Australia and Denmark [N=62]. An interpretive analysis of transcribed audio data was conducted.
Nurses in Denmark and Australia valued family as part of the patient’s care however assessment processes differed in relation to cultural concerns and health systems. In Denmark nurses formed the main aspect of support to the patient although the family was not always present. Whereas Australian nurses described their role as one to identify concerns from picking up on cues from the family and refer to a specialist. Both nationalities noted time and space for family assessment and level of experience and expertise influenced the nurse’s role in family assessment. Nurses also identified that a structured approach may increase their ability to assess and provide support.
The cultural aspect of family support influenced how the nurses engaged in family assessment. The hospital organization also influenced family assessment which may be difficult to change. The development of simple questions to engage the family may improve overall family support. A follow-on study is exploring the family needs during oncology care to understand what the family wants from the nurses.