“The Keepers of Stories”: Personal Growth and Wisdom Among Oncology Nurses

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This study examined whether oncology nurses experience personal growth and wisdom as a result of caring for patients. Using a grounded theory approach, 30 nurses were interviewed regarding their experiences caring for cancer patients. Every nurse in this sample cited at least one example of growth and wisdom. Subthemes of personal growth were largely consistent with the documented domains of posttraumatic growth and included appreciation of life, new perspective on life, relating to others, spiritual/religious growth, and personal strength. Subthemes of wisdom were more varied, reflecting the diversity of this construct in the context of nursing. Benevolence arose as a unifying theme between personal growth and wisdom, with subthemes centering on altruistic attitudes and behavior toward patients and the greater community. Findings suggest that nurses develop personal growth, wisdom, and benevolence as a result of the emotional connections formed with patients and the subsequent struggle to cope with their loss. This process accords well with findings in other populations experiencing trauma and adversity directly.

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