A big word for something we do all the time: Oncology nurses lived experience of vigilance

Wendy Carter Kooken, Joan E. Haase

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Scopus citations


Background: Oncology nurses are responsible to be vigilant for patients to keep them safe from harm. Yet, nurse vigilance and its role in preventing error are not well understood. Increased knowledge of how oncology nurses practice vigilance may lead to interventions that enhance nurses' abilities to be vigilant, decrease error rates, and protect patients from harm. Objective: This article describes oncology nurses' lived experiences of vigilance while practicing in an acute care hospital setting. Methods: The study design was an adaptation of Colaizzi's empirical phenomenology. Data were obtained from a purposive sample of oncology registered nurses (n = 7) who were identified as being vigilant by patients and family members, following their own interviews about their experiences of vigilance. Results: Four theme categories indicated the following: (1) nurses use vigilance to keep patients safe; (2) vigilance is incorporated into expert practice over time; (3) barriers impede nurses' abilities to be effectively vigilant; and (4) nurses expect patients and families to participate in vigilance partnerships with them because it enhances the nurses' abilities to be vigilant. Conclusion: Nurse vigilance is a complex phenomenon that is not well understood but is used by nurses in daily practice to protect patients from harm. Implications for Practice: Ways in which nurses can enhance vigilance are identified, as well as barriers to vigilance, which if addressed may promote patient safety and well-being. A theory of vigilance and a measure of it could provide objective feedback, which will enhance nurses' abilities to be effectively vigilant.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E15-E24
JournalCancer nursing
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014


  • Colaizzi
  • Oncology nursing
  • Patient safety
  • Qualitative research
  • Vigilance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Oncology(nursing)

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