Being friendly and informal: reflected in nurses', terminally ill patients' and relatives' conversations at home*


  • Maura Hunt PhD MPhil RGN RM RHV RHVT

    Regional Nursing Research Officer
    1. South East Thames Regional Health Authority, Thrift House, Collington Avenue, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex TN39 3NQ, England
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  • *

    Based on a paper given at the Seventh Annual Conference of theBritish Psychosocial Oncology Group at the College of Ripon and York St John, York, England 17 December 1990


The aspect of the study discussed is part of the analysis of audio-recorded, naturally occurring conversations between symptom control team (SCT) nurses, terminally ill cancer patients and their relatives in their own homes over a 3-month period Using an ethnographic, extended case-study approach, four ‘role formats' were identified as consistently used by the SCT nurses to carry out their work through conversation, one of them being ‘friendly and informal’ The SCT nurses explicitly made it known to patients and their relatives that they intended to be ‘friendly and informal’ How such a claim was translated into practice, both non-conversationally and through conversation, is the focus of this paper Being ‘friends' and being ‘friendly and informal’ with patients and clients is frequently advocated in medical and nursing literature, but how this is achieved in practice and the responses of patients seems unstudied Therefore, the analysis discussed in this paper opens up for critical reflection an unquestioned, taken-for-granted aspect of practice where it is demonstrated how ‘friendliness and informality’ are conveyed through chatting and how it differs from ‘formal’ conversations