Background: Chronic breathlessness is a significant problem in palliative care and oxygen is often prescribed in an attempt to ameliorate it. Often, this prescription falls outside the current funding guidelines for long-term home oxygen use. The aim of this qualitative study was to understand the factors that most influence Australian specialist palliative care nurses' initiation of home oxygen for their patients. Methods: A series of focus groups were held across three states in Australia in 2011 involving specialist palliative care nurses. The invitation to the nurses was sent by e-mail through their national association. Recorded and transcribed data were coded for themes and subthemes. A summary, which included quotes, was provided to participants to confirm. Results: Fifty-one experienced palliative care nurses participated in seven focus groups held in three capital cities. Two major themes were identified: 1) logistic/health service issues (not reported in this paper as specific to the Australian context) involving the local context of prescribing and, 2) clinical care issues that involved assessing the patient's need for home oxygen and ongoing monitoring concerns. Palliative care nurses involved in initiating or prescribing oxygen often reported using oxygen as a second-line treatment after other interventions had been trialed and these had not provided sufficient symptomatic benefit. Safety issues were a universal concern and a person living alone did not emerge as a specific issue among the nurses interviewed. Conclusion: The role of oxygen is currently seen as a second-line therapy in refractory dyspnea by specialist palliative care nurses.