Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2017

Access Restrictions

Access restricted until 08/31/2021

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Ayres, Lioness

First Committee Member

Rakel, Barbara

Second Committee Member

Herr, Keela

Third Committee Member

Daack-Hirsch, Sandy

Fourth Committee Member

Farag, Amany


Inadequate cancer pain management is a global problem. The problem is particularly worse in developing countries where the majority of patients present with advanced stages of the disease. Nurses play an important role in cancer pain management because they spend the majority of their time with patients. The purpose of the study was to examine role of unit cultures on cancer pain management practices among nurses in Kenya. A focused ethnography was used to explore cancer pain management practices of two different units (general and private) within the same institution. Data were collected for four months in a national referral hospital in Nairobi, Kenya. Purposive sampling was used to recruit participants. A total of twenty five nurses and fourteen secondary participants (e.g., nurse managers) participated in this study. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews, observations, and document reviews. Content analysis was used to analyze the data.

The study findings show that the unit culture plays a role in cancer pain management practices. For instance, nurses on the oncology unit prioritize pain while nurses on the private unit prioritize overall patient satisfaction. Nurses in both units do not conduct a comprehensive pain assessment and they do not use validated pain assessment tools. Facilitators, such as availability of analgesics and palliative care training, were helpful in managing cancer pain especially in the oncology unit. Barriers such as, negative attitudes towards opioids and doubting patients’ report of pain continue to hinder adequate cancer pain management in the private unit. Other barriers including lack of pain management policies, assessment tools, and workload, influence cancer pain management practices negatively in both units.

Understanding the role of unit culture in nursing cancer pain management practices has important implications for policy and practice. Findings in this study show a divergence of the prevailing training of nurses on pain management and practice. Findings could be used to develop pain management policies and protocols for nurses to use as a guide in cancer pain management. Also, nurse managers could use this findings to improve practice for instance, training in cancer pain management could be expanded to include nurses in the private unit. In terms of research, studies could be done to capture patients’ perspectives regarding cancer pain management, or implementation studies could be carried out to alleviate the barriers identified. Lastly, tailored strategies aimed at changing the culture in a unit to enhance change in practice are needed.


Barriers & facilitators, Cancer pain, Focused ethnography, Nurses, Practices, Unit culture


x, 224 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 185-200).


Copyright © 2017 Lister Nyareso Onsongo

Available for download on Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Included in

Nursing Commons