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Facing death: physicians' difficulties and coping strategies in cancer care
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Clinical Sciences, Psychiatry. Department of Education, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden.
1994 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Even if the treatment of cancer has developed over the last decades 50% of the patients still die of their cancer. The doctor's way of dealing with his and his patient's anxiety must surely be of significance for the treatment the patient receives.

In the first part of the thesis earlier studies of physicians' stress and ways of coping are reported. There is a lack of systematic studies which show how doctors working with cancer patients adjust to this work. The aim of this investigation is to study cancer doctors' difficulties and coping strategies. The theoretical frame of the study embraces parts of psychoanalytical theory and coping models, emphasizing that both unconscious and conscious psychological processes play their part in the coping process.

The second, empirical part of the study includes 23 physicians strategically selected out of a population of physicians who work with institutional care and who have daily contact with adult cancer patients. The main method of data collection has been a series of recorded interviews. The focus of the interview was the physician's perception of how he reacts, thinks, talks and acts in different phases of the cancer disease. To illustrate the defence strategies of the interviewers, the projective percept-genetic test, the "Defence Mechanism Test" (DMT) is used. The "Structural Analysis of Social Behaviour" (SASB) has been used to study the doctors' self image.

The results indicate that the stated difficulties deeply affect the doctor as a human being. The statements reflect conflicting feelings and wishes in relation to authority, conflicting feelings and wishes in relation to frightening and injuring, conflicting feelings and wishes in relation to intimacy/distance. Thirty themes of coping strategies frequently recur and they have been grouped into seven categories. Most of the doctors "seek knowledge" and support from scientific literature. The majority of them state that attempting to "solve a problem" is their main strategy. Most of the doctors "seek support " as a part of their coping strategy. An interesting observation is that the doctors to a higher extent "seek a relation" to their patients rather than to their colleagues. Almost one third use "denial of the severity of a situation" as their main strategy. All the doctors consciously or unconsciously use "diverting strategies", i.e. undertake tasks which are devoid of contact with patients, such as research and administration or other activities which allow them to avoid the patient. One third use "projective manoeuvres" but this is never a main strategy.

In the third part of the study the credibility of the results and their pedagogical and practical implications are discussed.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå University , 1994. , 149 p.
Umeå University medical dissertations, ISSN 0346-6612 ; 395
Keyword [en]
Physician, cancer care, conflicts, coping, facing death, dying
National Category
Cancer and Oncology Psychiatry
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-99331ISBN: 91-7174-875-XOAI: diva2:790986
Public defence
1994-05-11, Tandläkarhögskolans sal B, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 10:00

Diss. Umeå : Umeå universitet, 1994

Available from: 2015-02-26 Created: 2015-02-06 Last updated: 2015-04-08Bibliographically approved

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Andræ, Margareta
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