Background: Empathic and informative interactions with health professionals are important for the well-being of people with cancer. However, there is a dearth of research examining the construction and experience of interactions with health professionals from the perspective of informal cancer carers.
Objective: The aim of this study was to explore how cancer carers subjectively position their experiences of interactions with health professionals, in particular, their construction of experiences as positive or negative, and the perceived consequences of such interactions. Positioning theory is used to examine how the sociomedical construction of health professionals shapes carers' experiences of interactions with them.
Method: Semistructured interviews were carried out with 53 informal cancer carers across a range of cancer types and stages, analyzed using thematic decomposition.
Results: Carers positioned positive interactions as those involving health professionals who were warm and genuine, accessible and approachable, and who made carers feel accepted and comfortable. In the case of allied health professionals, the provision of a space for carers' cathartic release was also constructed positively. Negative interactions were positioned as those involving poor communication and a lack of empathy, poor or absent information provision, and absence of guidance about additional support.
Conclusions: Positive experiences with health professionals were positioned by carers as leading to feelings of empowerment, value, and recognition, and negative interactions as leading to distress, anger, frustration, and feelings of isolation.
Implications for Practice: It is important for health professionals to be supportive of carers' needs, to communicate in an empathic manner, to be approachable and accessible, and to recognize carers needs and concerns.