Title. The meaning of caring for people with malodorous exuding ulcers.
Aim. This paper is a report of a study to illuminate the meaning of caring for people with malodorous exuding ulcers.
Background. Managing ulcers is complicated and consensus on assessment and treatment difficult to reach. Nurses need knowledge and skills to provide good care. They must stay close and be exposed to contamination and suffering. They must provide care without violating patients and we need to further explore this challenge.
Method. A convenience sample of ten participants was recruited. Participants had experience of caring for people with malodorous exuding ulcers and were employed in primary health or hospital care in Sweden. Narrative interviews were conducted during late 2002 to early 2005 and interpreted using a phenomenological-hermeneutic method.
Findings. Themes were formulated: ‘Facing the wound’ when nurses reveal what is meant to be concealed and perceive patients’ vulnerability; ‘Facing one’s own defencelessness’ when feeling invaded, helpless and ashamed; ‘Struggling to shield one’s own defencelessness’ was achieved by striving to be in control, striving to endure and seeking a way out. ‘Struggling to shield patients’ vulnerability’ was about alleviating patients’ additional suffering by striving to spare patients, pushing boundaries, making uncomfortable decisions and sharing togetherness. When failing to shield their own defencelessness and patients’ vulnerability, nurses run the risk of experiencing desolation.
Conclusion. Physical proximity and bodily suffering affect nurses. Caring for people with ulcers calls for improved interprofessional cooperation in order to provide the best treatments and care. Further education for these nurses is needed, as well as support from managements and organizations.