Stories of being a hospice nurse: a journey towards finding one's footing

Cancer Nurs. 1997 Oct;20(5):330-41. doi: 10.1097/00002820-199710000-00004.


This article sheds light on the meaning of the lived experience of being a hospice nurse, as interpreted from in-depth interviews with 18 hospice nurses. The nurses' stories were analyzed using a phenomenologic-hermeneutic approach inspired by the philosophy of Ricoeur. Findings were synthesized into two themes: pursuing meaningful hospice care and pursuing spiritual integrity. Results indicated that it was the nurses' conceptions of "ideal" hospice practice that seemed to be the lens through which the nurses experienced and interpreted "real" practice as being either vitalizing or devitalizing. Results also indicated that being a hospice nurse means being visible as a person, in the sphere between the sacred and the profane and on the border between eternity and the finite. In narrating these experiences, the nurses used metaphors pointing towards "the sacred" and a "consciousness of fault." The tension between "ideal" and "real" hospice practices, and the nurses' vitalizing and devitalizing experiences and their use of metaphors in narrating these experiences are interpreted in the light of Bauman's two "life strategies" of deconstructing mortality and immortality, and Ricoeur's Symbolism of Evil.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude to Death
  • Culture
  • Female
  • Hospices*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nurse-Patient Relations
  • Philosophy, Nursing*
  • Sweden
  • Terminal Care*