Implementing an Undefined Job: A Classical Grounded Theory Study Exploring the Perceptions of Oncology Clinical Trial Nurses Encountering Ethical Challenges in Practice

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The clinical trial nurse (CTN) has been recognized as a specialty nursing practice in which the nurse balances the care of a volunteer research participant with the requirements of a clinical trial; the oncology clinical trial nurse (OCTN) specifically cares for the oncology patient enrolled in a clinical trial. A majority of the research is devoted to the role and obligations of the nurse in this specialty practice. While some nursing research provides examples, real or supposed, of ethical challenges CTNs or OCTNs might encounter in practice, there is little information on how the nurses manage those encounters.

This Classical Grounded Theory (CGT) dissertation explored the ethical challenges experienced by OCTNs in their professional practice. CGT is an inductive methodology to study a social process in which little is known and develop a theory grounded in the data (Glaser, 1998). This CGT study used the procedures of constant comparative methodology (CCM), coding, memoing, and theoretical sampling (Glaser, 1978, 1998) to analyze interviews from twelve OCTNs.

The analysis of the study data resulted in identifying the participant’s main concern and substantive theory, Implementing an Undefined Job. OCTNs resolve their main concern by figuring it out; they learned from their own experiences and applied this knowledge to future situations in an effort to better understand how to manage an ethical challenge if it occurred again. Learning as you go, utilizing their assets, standing their ground, and managing hope emerged as conceptual categories related to the participants’ main concern and the core category. A theoretical understanding of the OCTNs’ experiences managing ethical challenges fills a gap in the nursing literature and provides a framework for how OCTNs manage and respond to those challenges in their professional practice.

clinical trial nurse, oncology clinical trial nurse, ethics, ethical challenges, grounded theory, classical grounded theory, undefined job