A grounded theory approach was used in this observational study using the medium of passive participant to non-participant observation in a haematology ward; four adults with leukaemia and their nursing staff were observed. Follow-up interviews and reflective conversations with the patients were carried out and data from the transcribed interviews, conversations and observations were analysed using the constant comparative method, which is the fundamental method of analysis in grounded theory. We found that the care supplied by the nursing staff was given in the form of routines: for service, information-collecting and information-giving, as well as medical-technical routines. The patients demanded human interaction, involving conversation, information, respect, security, participation and concern. The findings of this study enhance our understanding of individuals who have a life-threatening disease and their interaction with the nursing staff.