Aims. (i) Explore the meaning of comfort care for hospice nurses. (ii) Provide an understanding of how this work is pursued in the hospice setting. (iii) Examine the means by which hospice nurses provide comfort to hospice patients.
Background. The concepts of 'comfort' and 'comfort care' have long been a subject for examination by nurse researchers. The paper provides an overview of selected, relevant literature in this area. The methods used by nurse researchers have almost always been qualitative, and have focused on the meaning of nursing care for dying patients, from both nurses' and patients' perspectives.
Design and methods. The paper reports a hermeneutic phenomenological study of the work of 15 hospice nurses based in one hospice in the north of England. Sampling was purposive, and data were collected by means of semi-structured interviews. A reflective diary was also kept. The interpretation of data was guided by phenomenological and hermeneutic methodology.
Results. The nurses interviewed spoke openly about their experiences of working with hospice patients. They saw the relief of suffering through 'comfort care' as an important element of their work. The findings are presented under three thematic headings: 'Comfort and relief', 'Peace and ease' and 'Spirituality and meaning'.
Conclusion. Hermeneutic phenomenology is an important method for uncovering the complex realities of nursing work. The nurses' perspectives on 'comfort care' they offer to patients were revealed by the data presented here, which were interpreted to offer a unique perspective on this type of nursing work.
Relevance to clinical practice. These findings offer insights to nurses in both hospice and other settings; they give a number of perspectives on the nature of 'comfort care' and the meanings attached to it by experienced hospice nurses'.