As a practice, nursing centers on patients' bodies and how they live the experience of illness and disability through their bodies (embodiment). International nursing studies conducted on the topic of body care primarily include theoretical studies, whereas empirical studies remain sparse. The aim of this study was to describe nurses' perceptions of the role of their bodies and the bodies of patients during body care. This study used a descriptive phenomenological study based on Husserl's philosophical perspective. A purposive sample of 11 Italian registered nurses representing the highest level of nursing education, different clinical experience levels, and different clinical specialties were interviewed. Data were collected between July 2015 and September 2015. Open-ended interviews were analyzed using Giorgi's descriptive phenomenological method. Lincoln and Guba's strategies were used to ensure the trustworthiness of the data. In addition to the overarching theme, “Body care is the heart of nursing,” 4 major themes with 13 subthemes emerged from the data. The 4 major themes were as follows: (1) “Body care encompasses the essence of person”; (2) “Body care touches the heart of person”; (3) “The body generates opposite strategies of care”; and (4) “In time, the body ‘nourishes’ the helping relationship.” Nurses considered body and embodiment concepts central to nursing. Body care is treated as an experience with extraordinary emotional contents, allowing nurses to discover the essentials of human nature.
Department of Biomedicine and Prevention, Tor Vergata University, Rome, Italy (Drs Marchetti, Facchinetti, and Virgolesi); Research Unit Nursing Science, Campus Bio Medico University, Rome, Italy (Dr Piredda and Ms De Marinis); and Department of Public Health and Paediatric Sciences, University of Turin, Turin, Italy (Ms Garrino and Mr Dimonte).
Correspondence: Anna Marchetti, PhD, MSN, RN, Department of Biomedicine and Prevention, Tor Vergata University, Via Montpellier n. 1, 00133, Rome, Italy (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The authors thank the nurses who participated in this study for their precious contributions. Finally, the authors extend their gratitude to Rosa Bruni, a psychiatrist and psychotherapist in Rome (Italy), and Maria Teresa Russo, a professor of bioethics at Roma Tre University (Italy) and of anthropology at Campus Bio-Medico University in Rome (Italy). Their scientific and theoretical support substantially improved the manuscript.
The authors have disclosed that they have no significant relationships with, or financial interest in, any commercial companies pertaining to this article.