A study of practising nurses’ perceptions and experiences of intimacy within the nurse–patient relationship
Aim. This study investigated the perceptions and experiences of intimacy within the nurse–patient relationship.
Background. Intimacy is an increasingly recognized nursing concept, which is intrinsically related to the therapeutic potential of nursing. However, the nature of intimacy as practised in nursing remains largely unexplored. A qualitative design was used and a purposive sample of 10 nurses was involved. Data were collected by means of semistructured interviews and diaries.
Findings. Content analysis of the data yielded five categories relating to the nature of intimacy, involvement, resources, affinity for the patient and the rejection of intimacy. This paper focuses on the first of these categories. Intimacy emerged as a complex concept and included the subcategories of disclosure, levels of disclosure, sharing personal experiences, patient dependency and vulnerability, instrumental touch and intimacy and intimacy as an inappropriate term for the nurse–patient relationship. These findings are discussed in the light of existing theories and recommendations made for further research to expand and develop the issues highlighted.
Conclusions. The paper concludes by highlighting the complexity of the concept and identifies some of the constraints to intimacy in practice such as insufficient resources, the health care system and role changes.