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The Nature of Suffering and the Goals of Nursing

Betty R. Ferrell
Nessa Coyle
ONF 2008, 35(2), 241-247 DOI: 10.1188/08.ONF.241-247

Purpose/Objectives: To describe the nature of suffering and the goals of nursing.

Data Sources: Data sources informing this work included descriptions of suffering as derived from the literature; narrative data from patients, family caregivers, and nurses; and personal and professional experiences of the authors.

Data Synthesis: Previous descriptions of suffering from seminal sources are insufficient to elucidate suffering from a nursing perspective. This article is parallel to Cassell's description in 1982 of the nature of suffering and the goals of medicine. Nurses play a fundamental role in caring for those who suffer. Suffering is associated with loss, intense emotions, spiritual distress, and inability to express those experiences.

Conclusions: The 10 basic tenets of suffering describe its nature and the goals of nursing; they include listening, intimate care of the body, and presence.

Implications for Nursing: Oncology nurses witness suffering in their daily work. This article is intended to acknowledge suffering experienced in oncology nursing and to stimulate future research.

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