Caring in Palliative Care: A Phenomenological Study of Nurses’ Lived Experiences

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Abstract

Providing palliative care involves serious challenges for nurses, such as end-of-life decisions, contact with people’s suffering and dying, and increased risk of burnout. However, studies have revealed that the burnout level of health professionals working in palliative care is lower than that of health professionals working in other settings. This study aimed to describe the lived experiences of nurses caring in a palliative care unit. A phenomenological descriptive study was undertaken. Nine nurses were recruited from a palliative care unit in Portugal. Data were collected using individual interviews and analyzed following the method of Giorgi. Five themes reflect the essence of the lived experience: (1) experience centered on the relationship with the other (ie, the patient and the family), (2) experience centered on the relationship with one’s own self, (3) exhausting experience, (4) rewarding experience, and (5) the team as a pillar. These findings can be valuable for understanding the challenges and strategies experienced by nurses caring in palliative care and for designing interventions that focus on reducing the risk of burnout among nurses—not only those working in palliative care but also those working in other contexts who experience regular contact with suffering and death.

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