A conceptual foundation for human suffering in nursing care and research


Dr B.L. Rodgers School of Nursing, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, PO Box 413, Milwaukee, WI 53201 USA.


Suffering is a significant, yet elusive, phenomenon in nursing and health care. Despite the importance and prevalence of suffering, there is only a small body of substantive literature on this topic. Some of the difficulty in expanding this knowledge base undoubtedly is related to the lack of a solid conceptual foundation for exploration of this phenomenon. Although there have been appempts to provide neede conceptual clarity, these efforts typically have not been based on systematic inquiry. In this study, the method of concept analysis was used to inductively generate a definition of the concept of suffering and to clarify various contextual aspects of the concept. Suffering is defined as an individulized, subjective, and complex experience that involves the assignment of an intensely negative meaning to anevent or a perceived threat. Implications of these findings and additional contextual aspects of the concept for nursing practice and inquiry are presented. These results help to provide the conceptual foundation needed to enhance recognition and understanding of the human experience of suffering.