• caring;
  • encounters;
  • ethics;
  • healthcare;
  • hermeneutic;
  • narrative analysis

This study focuses on the meaningful encounters of patients and next of kin, as seen from their perspective. Identifying the attributes within meaningful encounters is important for increased understanding of caring and to expand and develop earlier formulated knowledge about caring relationships. Caring theory about the caring relationship provided a point of departure to illuminate the meaningful encounter in healthcare contexts. A qualitative explorative design with a hermeneutic narrative approach was used to analyze and interpret written narratives. The phases of the analysis were naïve interpretation, structure analysis on two different levels (narrative structure, and deep structure through metaphors) and finally a dialectic interpretation. The narratives revealed the meaning of the meaningful encounter as sharing, a nourishing fellowship, common responsibility and coming together, experienced as safety and warmth, that gives, by extension, life-changing moments, a healing force and dissipated insight. The meaningful encounter can be seen as a complex phenomenon with various attributes. Understanding the meaningful encounter will enable nurses to plan and provide professional care, based on caring science, focusing on patient and next-of-kin experiences.