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Keywords:

  • suffering;
  • understanding of life;
  • clinical application research;
  • caring hermeneutic dialogue;
  • cancer;
  • burnout

The preunderstanding for this study is that progression of a person’s suffering can be seen as movement from unbearable to the bearable. This study aims to examine the development of understanding of life in people with cancer and burnout syndrome in relation to nursing care. Our method entailed clinical application research in the design and collection of data, which consisted of qualitative interviews with 16 former patients in conventional and anthroposophic health care; nine with cancer diagnoses and seven with burnout syndrome. The main theme of our findings is ‘a pilgrimage on the road to understanding of life’. The pilgrimage is the person’s own inner decision to reach new insights and meaning. When suffering from cancer, the struggle is related to threat of death, while persons with burnout syndrome struggle with a threatening nothingness. Walking alone on the pilgrimage without being met in an understanding of life creates increased suffering, while having a companion on the pilgrimage was seen as adding dignity to the suffering human being. The implications for nursing care are that even patients with burnout syndrome need a caring hermeneutic dialogue, where time and space is shared with a caregiver during the pilgrimage.