Since the 1970s breast cancer services have witnessed considerable changes in the management of patients. One significant change was the introduction of specialist core personnel, including the breast care nurse (BCN). The role of the BCN has been gaining credence rapidly in the British NHS and this service is perhaps the paradigm of care for other services. With the lack of specific evidence of the role of specialist nurses in the breast care team, the current study aims to explore this area by in-depth interviews with core team members, and observations of 16 multi-disciplinary teams in England. The study explores the following themes: Nurses' unique informal management leadership role in ensuring the co-ordination, communication and planning of the team work; nurses' innovatory role in making the bureaucracy respond to patients and their relatives needs; nurses supportive role in the provision of expert advice and guidance to other members of the team; nurses confidence and humour in well-performing teams; and the limitations of the professional role of the breast cancer nurse. This study indicates that there is evidence that the BCN is practicing at an advanced level of practice. However, there is a severe lack of evidence-based description of that advanced practice. Cancer nurses including the BCNs should develop and participate in programmes of research in line with cancer legislation in order to build an evidence base that ultimately supports their unique role. © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
- breast cancer care nurse
- nursing practice
- multi-disciplinary team working
- ptients advocate
- nurses’ role in the team