William Pirl on the Importance of Nurses in Cancer Care

October 22, 2015
William Pirl, MD

William Pirl, MD, a psychiatrist and director of the Center of Oncology and Behavioral Sciences at Massachusetts General Hospital and associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, discusses the importance of nurses in cancer care.

William Pirl, MD, a psychiatrist and director of the Center of Oncology and Behavioral Sciences at Massachusetts General Hospital and associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, discusses the importance of nurses in cancer care.

Nurses are possibly the largest providers of psychosocial care within the multidisciplinary oncology team, Pirl says. Infusion nurses, in particular, spend hours with patients and will often provide counseling, coaching, and support.

In a study evaluating occupational stress in oncology nurses, Pirl found that many nurses felt that they were contributing to the death of their patients. The study also showed that patient relationships were the most rewarding part of their jobs, and anything that interfered with developing such bonds made nurses feel as if they were giving poor care.

Along with ensuring good psychosocial care for patients, Pirl says that he launched the research project because he values his nurse colleagues and wants to strengthen multidisciplinary relationships.