PICCO E, SANTORO R and GARRINO L. Nursing Inquiry 2010; 17: 39–46 Dealing with the patient’s body in nursing: nurses’ ambiguous experience in clinical practice The core of nursing in western countries is interaction with the patient and with his/her body in particular. As all nursing practices revolve around caring for the patient’s body, nurses need to understand the frailty of the body, the intimacy surrounding it, the story it tells, as well as the discomfort and difficulties both illness and close contact can generate in the nurse–patient relationship. With this study, we wanted to explore the ward experiences of a small group of nurses in their day-to-day interaction with patients and their bodies, to highlight their perceptions and possible difficulties in providing care. We collected qualitative data from in-depth interviews with 14 nurses working in departments of general internal medicine, neurology, and geriatrics. The interviews were conducted between April and June 2006 and interpreted using an interpretive phenomenological approach. Analysis of the interview transcripts revealed that while the nurses recognize the centrality of the body in nursing, they also expressed a certain ambiguity toward it: being able to improve a patient’s well-being through attentive care to the body is a major source of job satisfaction, but various coping and defense strategies are deployed to overcome care-giving situations that elicit avoidance or refusal reactions to the patient’s body.