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Keywords:

  • physical touch;
  • caring;
  • Hybrid Model;
  • concept development;
  • nursing

The conceptual structure of physical touch in caring

Aims of the study. This study was conducted to clarify and to conceptualize the phenomena of physical touch in caring.

Background. Physical touch occurs frequently in patient care situations and has specific meanings within the context of caring. However, the concept of physical touch in caring has not been well articulated in the literatures, although the phenomena of touch and physical touch have been studied in relation to comfort, sense of well-being and connectedness.

Design/method. The Hybrid Model of concept development was applied to develop a conceptual structure of physical touch in caring, which included a field study carried out in Seoul, South Korea using in-depth interviews with 39 adult subjects consisting of health-care professionals, in-patients, and healthy persons.

Results/findings. The concept of physical touch in caring emerged as a complex phenomenon having meanings on several different dimensions which were encompassed several attributes and the conceptual structure of physical touch in caring centred around five aspects of goals for physical touch: promoting physical comfort, promoting emotional comfort, promoting mind-body comfort, performing social role, and sharing spirituality.

Conclusions. Physical touch in caring as a concept having the dimensions of physical, emotional, social, and spiritual significance needs to be treated in a holistic way and it is possible to enrich the meanings and methods of physical touch in nursing so that its application may have effects that have positive impacts on patients’ well-being and comfort.