The multifaceted vigilance – nurses' experiences of caring encounters with patients suffering from substance use disorder

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Nursing care is guided by a value base focusing on promoting dignity and health by means of the caring relationship. However, previous research has revealed that negative attitudes towards ‘addicted’ patients, as well as these patients' behaviour, can give rise to negative emotions such as frustration and disappointment among nurses. This can contribute to a judgmental and controlling attitude towards patients. To preserve order, nursing interventions focusing on creating structure and stability could be applied in a way that challenges caring values.

Aims and objectives:

This study aimed to describe how nurses' working in inpatient psychiatric care experience caring encounters with patients suffering from substance use disorder (SUD).


This qualitative study is part of a clinical application project focusing on value-based care of patients suffering from SUD. Data were obtained during four reflective group dialogues with six nurses in a psychiatric hospital.


The transcribed dialogues were subjected to latent qualitative content analysis.


The analysis facilitated the organisation of the findings into a coherent pattern. A common thread of meaning was conceptualised as a theme labelled ‘the multifaceted vigilance’, describing how nurses strived to deliver good care, while at the same time being vigilant towards patients' behaviour as well as their own reactions to it. Within that theme, four categories described experiences related to different challenges nurses face in caring encounters.


We suggest that this perhaps unavoidable aspect of caring encounters can be an asset. Thus, if acknowledged and subject to reflection, being vigilant could be understood as a strength enabling nurses to safeguard caring values, and to use their authority to promote patients' health and alleviate suffering.

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