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In a study to identify and describe nurses’use of comforting strategies, techniques of qualitative ethology were used to analyse videotaped recordings of nurse-patient interactions on an active cancer treatment ward Comforting strategies nurses were observed to use included gentle humour, physical comfort measures, emotionally supportive statements, and comforting and connecting touch In addition they increased physical proximity, provided patients with information, supported patients’active participation in decisions regarding their care, and offered opportunities for patients to engage in social exchange These strategies appeared to play a major role in helping cancer patients endure the discomforts associated with their illness and/or treatment Various combinations of comforting strategies were used in four different contexts, including helping patients put experiences into perspective, helping them stay in control, providing opportunities to function as normally as possible, and providing emotional support The findings of this study support conceptualizations of comforting that extend beyond measures related to symptom control and indicate that comforting strategies used by cancer nurses comprise a significant part of their work