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Original Research: 'How Should I Touch You?': A Qualitative Study of Attitudes on Intimate Touch in Nursing Care

O'Lynn, Chad, PhD, RN; Krautscheid, Lorretta, MS, RN

AJN The American Journal of Nursing: March 2011 - Volume 111 - Issue 3 - p 24-31
doi: 10.1097/10.1097/01.NAJ.0000395237.83851.79
Feature Articles

Objective Although touch is essential to nursing practice, few studies have investigated patients' preferences for how nurses should perform tasks involving touch, especially intimate touch involving private and sometimes anxiety-provoking areas of patients' bodies. Some studies suggest that patients have more concerns about intimate touch from male than female nurses. This study sought to elicit the attitudes of laypersons on intimate touch provided by nurses in general and male nurses in particular.

Methods A maximum-variation sample of 24 adults was selected and semistructured interviews were conducted in four focus groups. Interviews were recorded and transcribed; thematic analysis was performed.

Results Four themes emerged from the interviews: "Communicate with me," "Give me choices," "Ask me about gender," and "Touch me professionally, not too fast and not too slow." Participants said they want to contribute to decisions about whether intimate touch is necessary, and when it is they want information from and rapport with their nurses. Participants varied in their responses to questions on the nurse's gender. They said they want a firm but not rough touch and for nurses to ensure their privacy.

Conclusions These findings suggest that nurses and other clinicians who provide intimate care should be more aware of patients' attitudes on touch. Further research on the patient's perspective is warranted.

Keywords intimate touch, male nurses, nurse–patient relations, qualitative research, touch

This study reveals how nurses can provide care in a way that communicates professionalism and respect.

Chad O'Lynn is an assistant professor at the University of Portland School of Nursing, Portland, OR, where Lorretta Krautscheid is an instructor. Contact author: Chad O'Lynn, The authors of this article have disclosed no significant ties, financial or otherwise, to any company that might have an interest in the publication of this educational activity.

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.