• caring;
  • consolation;
  • ethics;
  • nurses;
  • nursing;
  • Phenomenological Hermeneutics

Aims and objective.  The aim of this study was to illuminate nurses’ experiences of consolation and how these experiences relate to suffering and care.

Background.  Consolation is commonly associated with the relief of suffering. The question of consolation in terms of its definition and relevance for care has, however, been a matter of discussion among nurse researchers. The question raised concerns about the nature of consolation, its place and its role in relation to care and the caring sciences.

Design.  An explorative qualitative interview study with 12 participants, six registered and six enrolled nurses, was carried out in a home-care context.

Methods.  A phenomenological-hermeneutic method inspired by the French philosopher Paul Ricoeur was used for the text analysis.

Results.  Two main aspects of consolation appeared: ‘the present consolation’, which is flexible, sustaining and opening and ‘the absent consolation’, which conceals the suffering and is incapable of consoling. The result was interpreted from a philosophical-ethical perspective, based on the works of Levinas and Lögstrup.

Conclusions.  Consolation appears as a complex phenomenon, both in terms of its existence and its absence consolation, constituting a caring and non-caring consolation. A caring consolation entails meeting the other as different and being present in a way that gives the other space to be the one he or she really is. It requires acceptance, accepting the sufferer and his/her way of suffering as unique.

Relevance to clinical practice.  The clinical nurse is involved in complex care situations, which entails both reflecting upon and using intuition when consoling. A caring consolation is a contradictory phenomenon that requires a nurse to be capable of both reflecting upon and acting intuitively on the unique suffering of the other.