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Keywords:

  • care;
  • caring;
  • nursing;
  • complexity;
  • relationship;
  • paradox

Is the complexity of care a paradox?

This paper looks at the phenomenon known as care and the medium through which it is expressed — caring. It explores some of the meanings of these terms but focuses particularly on nursing care. Superficially, nurses and society have a broad understanding of what ‘care’ means but common usage of the word belies its complexity. When examined alongside the writings of scholars the inconsistent nature of care and caring emerges. We reflect on the difficulties this presents for both the nurse and the cared for when, on the one hand care is promoted as the essence of nursing, while on the other there is no acceptable definition of care on which to base this claim. Encompassed within our discussion is the underlying theme that although care is an appropriate ideal for nursing it does not capture all of the day-to-day realities and hence it is not an overriding ideal. Care in nursing in this sense is contradictory and we describe it as paradoxical.