A ‘good enough’ nurse: supporting patients in a fertility unit


  • 1

    For a discussion of the methodology used in this study, see Allan (1997).

    2 IVF, In vitro fertilisation; GIFT, Gamete intra fallopian transfer.

    3 There have been critiques of the centrality of caring to nursing. For example, caring has been defined as fundamental to other human relationships and described as ‘the public form of private love’ (Dunlop 1986, 662), ‘sentimental work’ or TLC (tender loving care) (Strauss et al. 1985) and an emotional phenomenon, love and affection, emotional support (Graham 1993). Nursing’s claim to a science and art of caring is also claimed by medicine and other health care workers (Pellegrino 1983; Brewin 1993) while Waterworth and Luker (1990) have argued that the drive to create active and empowered patients is motivated by political will rather than humanism.

    4 Ultra sound sonographer.

Royal College of Nursing Institute, 20 Cavendish Square, London W1M 0AB, UK. E-mail:<helen.allan@rcn.org.uk> (work); <Fairleyallan@aol.com> (home)

A ‘good enough’ nurse: supporting patients in a fertility unit

In this paper, I discuss the findings of an ethnographic study of a fertility unit. I suggest that caring as ‘emotional awareness’ and ‘non-caring’ as ‘emotional distance’ may be forms of nursing akin to Fabricius’s (1991) arguments around the ‘good enough’ nurse. This paper critiques caring theories and contributes to the debates over the nature of caring in nursing. I discuss the implications raised for nurses if patients want a practical approach to caring and do not expect an emotionally intimate relationship from nurses.