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Continuity of nursing and the time of sickness

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This paper explores the relationship between temporal continuity in nursing and temporal features of sickness. It is based on phenomenological and hermeneutical philosophy, empirical studies of sickness time, and the nursing theories of Nightingale, of Benner and of Benner and Wrubel. In the first part, temporal continuity is defined as distinct from interpersonal continuity. Tensions between temporal continuity and discontinuity are discussed in the contexts of care management, of conceptualisations of disease and of time itself. Temporal limitations to the methodological concept of situation are discussed. The main part of this paper explores nurses’ possibilities to relate to their patients’ time, and how temporal features of sickness may warrant temporal continuity of nursing. Three temporal characteristics of sickness are discussed: the immediacy of patients’ suffering, the basic continuity of life through sickness and health care, and the indeterminism and precariousness of sickness. The timing of nursing acts is discussed. The paper explores how sickness is both part of the continuity of life, and threatens this continuity. It concludes that this tension is implicitly recognised in the temporal continuity of nursing, which allows for discontinuous and continuous aspects of sickness time. Nurses accordingly perceive the sick person's time at several levels of temporality, and distinguish highly complex temporal processes in their patients’ trajectory. Temporal continuity provides the time, flexibility, and closeness for nurses to perceive and act into time dimensions of individual sickness. The paper shows that temporal continuity of nursing is grounded in temporal characteristics of severe sickness. It suggests that temporal continuity is an important theoretical concept in nursing.
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Keywords: Heidegger; Merleau-Ponty; nursing continuity; temporal continuity; temporality of nursing; temporality of sickness

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Associate Professor, University of Tromsoe, Department of Health Sciences, Tromsoe, and 2: Assistant Professor, Sør-Trøndelag University College, Faculty of Nursing, Trondheim, Norway

Publication date: 2009-04-01

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