An anthropological interpretation of nurses’ and patients’ perceptions of the use of space and touch The use of touch and space by nursing staff is critical in all aspects of patient care. How patients and nurses perceive the use and possible abuse of these encounters is the subject of this research. Data were collected through participant observation and semi-structured interviews with staff and patients. Interpretation of data was inherently from an anthropological perspective. There were some similarities between staff and patients’ perceptions of space/touch interactions, for example what constituted personal space, but also some differences, which may have implications for clinical practice, namely gender and age of both staff and patients during intimate tasks. The construction of the ward environment was identified as being crucial in developing a ‘new reality’, within which altered expectations emerged as to what was considered to be acceptable or unacceptable behaviour. The conflict between primary and professional socialization is an issue which may need to be examined further in educational institutions.