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An ageing Australian population and improving medical retrieval technology have led to an increasing need for nurses to manage complex and acute health issues of ageing and chronic disability In a study of aged and extended care involving nurses, residents, allied health professionals and family members, investigators used semi-structured interviews to identify critical aspects of nursing The aim of the study was to begin to identify and illustrate a theoretical framework of ‘critical’ nursing activities for aged and extended care Two important themes to emerge were the structure of the health care setting and the characteristic behaviours of people associated with it These themes reinforce the importance of treating people as individuals and of describing caring criteria in ways which reinforce holism