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In good hands: the phenomenological significance of human touch for nursing practices
  1. Gillian Lemermeyer
  1. Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Gillian Lemermeyer, Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; gillianl{at}ualberta.ca

Abstract

Prevailing understandings of the nurse’s touch tend to be focused on its consoling, instrumental and communicative utility. What seems to be missing is an exploration of the ethical and existential significance of the nurse’s touch. As an aspect of nearly every human experience, touch has a depth and breadth of meanings that are hard to compass. We experience the world through our bodies, feeling our way through our lives. In the nurse’s world, touching contact with the person in care is often considered to be a fundamental gesture, inherent to nursing practices. Still, touch is often hidden, subsumed by the tasks of nursing themselves. In order to explore the meaningfulness of the nurse’s touch, I start with considering the sense of touch itself, exploring possibilities of the nurse’s touch. The experience of the nurse’s touch is investigated further through phenomenological reflection on descriptive accounts of the nurse’s touch from poetry, fictional prose, neonatal nurse interviews, as well as scholarly and personal accounts. These examples show insights into the nurse’s touch as a site for an ethical encounter.

  • neonatal and paediatric intensive care
  • medical ethics/bioethics
  • nurse

Data availability statement

Data sharing not applicable as no data sets were generated and/or analysed for this study. The data for this research are interview transcripts and other textual data drawn from published accounts.

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Data availability statement

Data sharing not applicable as no data sets were generated and/or analysed for this study. The data for this research are interview transcripts and other textual data drawn from published accounts.

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Footnotes

  • Contributors GL is the sole contributor and author to this manuscript.

  • Funding This study was funded by Killam Trusts.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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