This paper reports the findings of a study which describes the experiences of nurses who were present with a patient when they received a diagnosis of cancer, cancer recurrence or prognosis of terminal cancer. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with six nurses who had experience of caring for patients with cancer in an acute surgical setting. Data were analysed using a phenomenological descriptive approach. Participants’ descriptions revealed the following seven core themes: ‘What if it was me?’; divergent feelings; being there; becoming closer; method of disclosure; time as an influence and learning by reflection. Possible implications for nursing practice and education are discussed and recommendations are made for future research.