BACKGROUND: Cancer treatment is increasingly provided on an outpatient basis, which may challenge patients and caregivers coping with illness and adverse effects at home. A telephone consultation is an accepted type of healthcare provision to support patients and prevent adverse outcomes when their capacity to self-manage is inadequate. Whether this option for help sufficiently supports patients needs further investigation.
OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study was to explore patients' and caregivers' experience of calling an oncological emergency telephone.
METHODS: The study applies a phenomenological hermeneutic approach with 12 semistructured interviews. Patients and caregivers who had called the oncological emergency telephone within the last 2 months were included. The interview texts were analyzed by content analysis.
RESULTS: Patients and caregivers perceive the emergency telephone as a lifeline that they consider calling when the patient's condition changes from what they understand as normal to what they perceive as abnormal. They would rather call "one time too many than one time too few" if their resources are inadequate to ensure their safety. The tone, attitude, and professional competency of healthcare providers affect patients' experience of the call.
CONCLUSIONS: The value of calling the oncological emergency telephone depends on the healthcare providers' professional competences and skills to establish a relationship that makes patients feeling accommodated and taken care of.
IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: Patients' and caregivers' perceptions of what constitutes a good telephone consultation represent significant knowledge that contributes to a more comprehensive and practice-based understanding of what is required to advise patients and caregivers in an oncological emergency telephone.