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‘Caring for’ behaviours that indicate to patients that nurses ‘care about’ them


A. Henderson: e-mail:


Title. ‘Caring for’ behaviours that indicate to patients that nurses ‘care about’ them

Aim.  This paper is a report of a study to explore what constitutes nurse–patient interactions and to ascertain patients’ perceptions of these interactions.

Background.  Nurses maintain patient integrity through caring practices. When patients feel disempowered or that their integrity is threatened they are more likely to make a complaint. When nurses develop a meaningful relationship with patients they recognize and address their concerns. It is increasingly identified in the literature that bureaucratic demands, including increased workloads and reduced staffing levels, result in situations where the development of a ‘close’ relationship is limited.

Method.  Data collection took two forms: twelve 4-hour observation periods of nurse–patient interactions in one cubicle (of four patients) in a medical and a surgical ward concurrently over a 4-week period; and questionnaires from inpatients of the two wards who were discharged during the 4-week data collection period in 2005.

Findings.  Observation data showed that nurse–patient interactions were mostly friendly and informative. Opportunities to develop closeness were limited. Patients were mostly satisfied with interactions. The major source of dissatisfaction was when patients perceived that nurses were not readily available to respond to specific requests. Comparison of the observation and survey data indicated that patients still felt ‘cared for’ even when practices did not culminate in a ‘connected’ relationship.

Conclusion.  The findings suggest that patients believe that caring is demonstrated when nurses respond to specific requests. Patient satisfaction with the service is more likely to be improved if nurses can readily adapt their work to accommodate patients’ requests or, alternatively, communicate why these requests cannot be immediately addressed.