How Japanese nurses provide care: a practice based on continuously knowing the patient


Yukie Takemura,
Department of Nursing Administration,
Graduate School of Medicine,
University of Tokyo,
7-3-1 Hongo,
Tokyo 113-0033,


Aim. Criticisms of the nursing process as a problem-solving approach have emerged recently. This study aimed to identify and describe a way of nursing based on the clinical practice of selected nurses in Japan.

Methods. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews and observations at one 300-bed Japanese hospital in 1999. The purposive sample consisted of 24 female nurses. Data analysis occurred simultaneously with data collection, and questioning and constant comparison were used for data analysis. Codes were clustered into categories and relationships among these were identified. In the final stage of the analysis, two group interviews with participants were carried out to enhance credibility.

Findings. This study identified a Japanese way of nursing intended to help patients explore and realize meanings and values of their experiences with illness. When nurses first contacted a patient, they quickly formed a patient image, but altered it each time they obtained new patient information. A patient image consisted of the patient's subjective world (the patient's perspective) and the holistic patient (nurses' perspectives of the patient). The nurses sometimes pursued strategies to know the patient's subjective world. The target, direction, conditions and ways of nursing care were decided based on continuously knowing the patient. The nurses related their knowledge and thoughts to the patient, and by talking with the patient promoted the patient's consideration and participation, and empowered the patient. Nurses continued attending to patients even when they could not provide specific nursing interventions.

Conclusions. Knowing the patient was found to be especially important in determining nursing care. The model described in this study does not contradict the nursing process as a systematic approach to problem-solving. Rather, it has some alternatives that might be useful in providing individual care in Japan.