• ethnography;
  • fertility nursing;
  • nursing the clinic;
  • intimacy;
  • being there;
  • hovering

Nursing the clinic, being there and hovering: ways of caring in a British fertility unit

Aim. To explore the meaning of caring in a fertility unit and to present the findings and discuss their implications for practice.

Background. Little research has been published internationally on the nature of nursing care in the fertility field. This study was intended to stimulate debate over the nature of care in fertility work.

Methodology. An ethnographic approach, which included part-time participant observation and in-depth focused interviews with staff and patients. Data were also collected using a field and a research diary. Data were analysed using a modified thematic analysis.

Findings. The data suggest that caring is strongly linked with nurses and that patients' expectations of nurses may be more practically than emotionally focused. I argue that the organization of nursing work, which I call `nursing the clinic and the doctor', facilitated this practical approach to caring. I discuss two features of nursing the clinic and the doctor: hovering and being there.

Conclusions. While there may be other factors that influence the practice of this form of non-intimate caring, nursing in this way may be what patients desire and may be congruent with managing emotions. The findings have implications for the discourse on intimacy and caring within fertility nursing as well as in different outpatient settings.