• Nasogastric tube insertion is a procedure that commonly involves discomfort, yet requires the cooperation of the conscious patient.
• This study employed qualitative ethology to investigate how comforting strategies were used during the insertion of nasogastric tubes in trauma care.
• Practitioners used eight direct and indirect comforting strategies in uniquely patterned styles (technical, affective and blended).
• In addition, a form of `team comforting' was implemented as multiple trauma team members made a concerted effort to complete the procedure.
• Further study is needed to explicate how the nurse's style affects the behavioural state displayed by the patient.