The meaning of caring interpersonal relationships in nursing
This thesis explores nurses' and patients' perceptions of caring relationships in a hospital context. An attempt is made to discover the meaning these caring relationships have for the nurses who provide care and for the patients who participate in this process. The nurses enter into the caring relationship as voluntary and professional participants. The patients come into hospital because of illness. The relationship entered into is claimed to be a caring relationship yet little is known about the personal experiences of the participants. In the first part of the study the repertory grid technique was used to structure interviews with 25 experienced nurses. Personal constructs were elicited and rated during the interviews. Six major themes emerged from a content analysis of the constructs. These were: personal qualities, clinical work style, interpersonal approach, level of motivation, concern for others, and use of time. The personal cost of caring for the nurses surfaced as a significant aspect of the caring relationship. In the second part of the study 10 nurses and 10 hospitalised patients were interviewed. These were analysed by means of a method grounded in interpretive phenomenology which focuses on the informants' lived experiences. Nine general themes emerged which captured the nurses' experiences of caring relationships. The themes were: patient dependency, patient circumstances, effectiveness, emotional involvement, stress, preparedness, ward constraints, role uncertainty, and personal benefits. The patients' experiences of being cared for were embodied in four general themes quite different from the nurses. The themes were: vulnerability, self-presentation, service evaluation, and other concerns. The thesis provides many details about the perceptions of caring relationships through the exploration of the lived experiences of nurses and patients in hospital. An extended picture of caring relationships in nursing has emerged. The need to take account of both the professional and consumer perspective is emphasised as it highlights important discrepancies between the views of carers and those they care for. Professional carers must be able to understand the patient in order to care in a personalised way and the approach used here demonstrates how this understanding can be achieved. Such an approach could also be used in nursing practice. The findings and methods used here should also be of interest to other helping professions and consumers of health care.