Searching for a professional identity: a qualitative study of the oncology nurses role in a multidisciplinary breast-unit team.

Searching for a professional identity: a qualitative study of the oncology nurses role in a multidisciplinary breast-unit team.


  • Enrico De Luca Unitelma Sapienza University of Rome
  • Barbara Sena Unitelma Sapienza University of Rome


case manager; specialist nurses role; clinical decision-making; person-centred care; interprofessional care; qualitative study; content analysis.


Background and Aims. Interprofessional collaboration concept in healthcare implies and evoke enhanced nurses’ involvement and role consideration. Our research aimed to investigate: 1) the impact of nursing within a multidisciplinary team of breast-unit practice; 2) healthcare team and patients' perceptions of key-features of the interprofessional care pathway. Methods. A qualitative exploratory approach was adopted. Researchers were involved in the activities of the Breast Unit: department meetings, review of unit guidelines, observation of professional practice and documents. In-depth interviews were conducted with 14 patients and a representative group of 15 healthcare professionals from the unit. Qualitative content analysis was chosen to infer data from interviews’ transcripts. Results. The analysis’ critical themes showed a very marginal nursing presence and the unfulfilled role of the Case Manager, especially in organizing the patient's journey and facilitating team communication. Furthermore, the lack of shared decision-making, team communication problems and limited inter-professional collaboration indicated the mono-professional management of the breast unit and a devaluation of specialist nurses role in managing patient care. Conclusion. The supportive roles of the oncology specialist nurse and case manager are still struggling within the cancer care pathways and multidisciplinary team. Although healthcare organizations attempt to develop and expand these roles, nurses must assess, identify challenges and barriers to navigate through such complex systems. Therefore, the implementation of interprofessional collaboration and a person-centred model of care can also take place through greater socio-cultural awareness and the recognition by health professionals and patients of the specialist nurses role.

Keywords: advanced nursing role; case manager; clinical decision-making; person-centred care; interprofessional care; qualitative study; content analysis.



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Original articles: Health Professions 3/2021

How to Cite

De Luca E, Sena B. Searching for a professional identity: a qualitative study of the oncology nurses role in a multidisciplinary breast-unit team. Acta Biomed [Internet]. 2021 Dec. 21 [cited 2024 Jul. 21];92(S2):e2021506. Available from: