Relationship-based nursing care and destructive demands

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The relationship between the nurse and the patient is understood as fundamental in nursing care. However, numerous challenges can be related to the provision of relationship-based nursing care. Challenges exist when nurses do not respond adequately to the patient’s appeal for help. Moreover, challenges arising in the nurse–patient relationship can be understood as more destructive demands from the patient to the nurse, thus begging inquiry into such a relationship.

Research question:

The overall aim is to explore and argue the relevance of problematizing destructive demands evident within relationship-based nursing care.

Research design:

This theoretical article explores destructive demands based on the phenomenological philosophy of the Danish theologian and philosopher Knud E. Løgstrup and provides examples of nurses’ experiences in everyday nursing care. The examples are drawn from a Norwegian empirical study based on a hermeneutical research design.

Participants and research context:

Data consisted of qualitative interviews and qualitative follow-up interviews with 13 nurses with varying work experience within the primary and secondary somatic and psychiatric health service, from inside as well as outside institutions.

Ethical consideration:

The original empirical study was approved by the Norwegian Social Science Data Services. Information was given and consent was obtained from the participants.


Two themes are described: strong impressions formed in meetings with patients and persistent concern over the burden of work and ability to endure.


Destructive demands related to relationship-based nursing care are discussed along two lines, first, by further elucidating nurses’ everyday experiences connected to destructive demands and, second, by highlighting the significance of including destructive demands within the relationship-based nursing care.


Including destructive demands related to relationship-based nursing care is of particular significance in enabling the proposition that radical, one-sided demands are based on relationality, reciprocity and thereby expectations of life. In short, both the nurse and the patient are human beings in need of love and goodness.

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