A participant observation study of experienced nurses' presence in daily care

Paulette Anne Osterman, University of Rhode Island


As important as presence is to nursing, it often lacks conceptual clarity and systematic empirical observation in nursing practice. However, in the few qualitative studies with presence as a focus researchers have not considered both nurse and patient in interaction in present time nor included the nature of the patient's perception of the nurse's presence. ^ In an earlier project in a long-term care setting, nurses were observed to be present in more than one way (presence, partial presence, full presence, and transcendent presence). In addition, nurses' employed presence for assessing impending health care changes early in the shift, and used creative humor to lighten the intensity of disease and illness experience. ^ In this study, participant observation and formal and informal interviewing were employed to describe and explore experienced nurses' presence in daily care on an oncology unit. Five nurses and their respective patients (10) were observed in interaction during morning care. Each nurse's presence was observed for way and variance of presence within same patient interaction and across patients. Following observations each nurse and patient was interviewed separately for their perception of presence and for evidence of concurrence. Additionally, nurses were asked to describe the process that occurred in being present with patients and what factors influenced that process. ^ The findings of this study supported descriptions in both the nursing literature and in the pilot project. Additional data suggested that: nurses used more than one way of being there with patients and across patients, much of nurses' presence was patient led, and despite the influence of the hospital structure nurses were creative in their interactions and use of humor. ^ This study represents a view into the world of nurses' work in patients' intimate space. Presence in the daily care of patients from an aesthetic dimension is somewhat novel and needs more exploration. Often nurses responded in ways not described in nursing textbooks. Credibility for these nurse responses through documentation of what really is happening in practice in other settings and across institutions might give nurse theorists a more realistic view of practice than an idealistic one. ^

Subject Area

Health Sciences, Nursing

Recommended Citation

Paulette Anne Osterman, "A participant observation study of experienced nurses' presence in daily care" (2002). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI3053115.