Expanding Caring : Theory and Practice intertwined in municipal elderly care

Sammanfattning: The Swedish Agency for Higher Education evaluated in 2007 the nursing programs at Swedish Universities, and confirmed that several programs lacked definition of the main subject of the discipline;- namely caring- and/or nursing. The caring science disciplines showed indications of increasing signs of fragmentation, in that sub-disciplines were evolving. There is a unique foundation of theoretical knowledge that is specific for the caring professions grounded in caring theory and philosophy. For some reason the theoretical foundation and contexture of providing care seems to fade off with time in clinical practice, as well as an explicated theory-practice gap; that theory does not go along with clinical practice. An assumption in this thesis is that caring theory somehow seems to evaporate; as nurses become clinically active- caring theory does not seem to be much reflected upon.The overall aim was to investigate into the meaning of caring to nurses in municipal elderly care, and into their explicit and implicit understanding of caring theory in their daily practice.The theoretical perspective was caring science, while the epistemological frame was of a phenomenological hermeneutical life world approach. Data was gathered by interviews with nurses working in elderly care and analyzed to grasp the structure of the phenomenon of caring in theory and practice. The thesis comprises four studies of which three empirical was consolidated with a Jean Watson’s specific caring theory, ending up in a better understanding of the approach of caring in nursing and the role of theory in practice.The findings of the studies show that the lived experience of caring as narrated by the participating nurses comprises both implicit and explicit theoretical foundation to existential caring theory. The explicit use of theory or certain theoretical affiliation was not obvious; rather what may be theoretical inputs was expressed as the importance of being present and the necessity of having a health perspective in caring. By illuminating caring and concepts from caring theory, the meaning of caring in their professional lived experience, the primary intention or choice of working as nurses became apparent again. There seems to be different perspectives related to caring theory, but as the empirical findings shows, there is a consensus behind what caring is, both in theory and in practice. As a result from the analysis the aim of caring itself may be more salient and focused if based on existential phenomenological caring concepts and theory, as this corresponds with the nurses understanding of holistic intentional caring with a health perspective.A gap exists, but is more related to organizational restrictions such as role constraints and time pressure than to the meaning of caring in theory and practice.Mediating care is a concept that embraces the implications of all the outcome concepts of the analysis and it has the possibility of being the expression of immanent and transcendent dimensions in caring. Mediating care represents the expression of our understanding of life, our values and norms. It is given expression through the insights into, and the ways we connect to one another, our ability as carers (nurses) to reach out to another in his or her being, as well the understanding of ones own being in caring. Theoretical and practical reflection and cultivation of clinical sensibility has the opportunity of inspiring for an expanded caring consciousness, manifested in the mediation of care.