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“Beyond the Boundaries of Care Dependence

A Phenomenological Study of the Experiences of Palliative Care Nurses

Piredda, Michela, PhD, RN; Candela, Maria L., MNS, RN; Mastroianni, Chiara, PhD, RN; Marchetti, Anna, PhD, RN; D’Angelo, Daniela, PhD, RN; Lusignani, Maura, MNS, RN; De Marinis, Maria G., MEd, MNS, RN; Matarese, Maria, MNS, RN

doi: 10.1097/NCC.0000000000000701
Article: PDF Only

Background Dependence is a common life experience and innate condition for human beings due to their bodily and relational essence, but in contemporary society, it has become a stressful condition. Care dependence is central to nursing, and patients with advanced cancer are often dependent on care. Understanding nurses’ perceptions of care dependence can contribute to awareness of the impact it has on nurses.

Objective The aim of this study was to explore palliative care nurses’ experiences and perceptions regarding patient dependence.

Methods Sixteen nurses taking care of dependent patients in a palliative care center in Rome were interviewed. Giorgi’s descriptive phenomenological method was used.

Results Nurses caring for dependent patients transcend the boundaries of dependence. Care dependence is an experience of powerlessness and regression. A patient’s life in dependence is precarious, as they have to overcome the daily limits of life. Taking care of dependent patients requires nurses to manage the unmanageable and to know and to embrace change from within in order to build positive relations of personal closeness and reciprocal self-giving.

Conclusions Nurses should be aware that self-transcendence and the consequent positive relations could make the difference in the experience of care dependence and promote personal growth for both patient and nurse. Positive and transcending relationships can transform care dependence into the opportunity to find meaning and purpose in life.

Implications for Practice The study highlights what nurses feel in caring for dependent patients. Understanding nurses’ perceptions is important to delineate a proper caring for dependent patients.

Authors Affiliations: Research Unit Nursing Science, Campus Bio-Medico, University of Rome (Drs De Marinis and Matarese, Piredda, and Marchetti and Ms Candela); Department of Bio-Medicine and Prevention, Tor Vergata University (Dr D’Angelo); and Antea Association (Dr Mastroianni), Rome; and Department of Biomedical Sciences for Health, University of Milan (Dr Lusignani), Italy.

The authors have no funding or conflicts of interest to disclose.

Correspondence: Maria Grazia De Marinis, MEd, MNS, RN, Research Unit Nursing Science, Campus Bio-Medico di Roma University, Via Alvaro del Portillo 21, 00128 Rome, Italy (

Accepted for publication December 27, 2018.

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