Telling their story: A qualitative descriptive study of the lived experience of expatriate palliative care nurses in the United Arab Emirates

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Oakley, S
Grealish, L
Coyne, E
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Purpose: To explore the experiences of expatriate nurses caring for Muslim patients near end-of-life in a palliative care unit in the United Arab Emirates.

Methods: A qualitative descriptive study, with data collected through semi structured individual interviews with nine expatriate nurses working in a palliative care unit in one hospital in the United Arab Emirates. Thematic analysis of the data transcripts used a structured inductive approach.

Results: Analysis of the interview transcripts yielded three themes. First, language was a significant barrier in end-of-life care but was transcended when nurses practiced authentically, using presence, empathetic touch and spiritual care. Secondly, relationships between nurses, patients and families were strengthened over time, which was not always possible due to late presentation in the palliative care unit. Finally, nurses were continually in discussions with physicians, families and other nurses, co-creating the meaning of new information and experiences within the hospital policy context.

Conclusion: For expatriate nurses, palliative nursing in a Muslim middle eastern country is complex, requiring nurses to be creative in their communication to co-create meaning in an emotionally intensive environment. Like other palliative care settings, time can strengthen relationships with patients and their families, but local cultural norms often meant that patients came to palliative care late in their disease trajectory. Preparing expatriate nurses for work in specialist palliative care settings requires skill development in advanced communication and spiritual practices, as well as principles of palliative care and tenets of Muslim culture.

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European Journal of Oncology Nursing
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© 2020 Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Licence ( which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, providing that the work is properly cited.
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Oakley, S; Grealish, L; Coyne, E, Telling their story: A qualitative descriptive study of the lived experience of expatriate palliative care nurses in the United Arab Emirates, European Journal of Oncology Nursing, 2020