Balancing between familiarity and professionalism in caring for older persons: A phenomenological study from the perspective of nursing students

Lamprini Maria Xiarchi*, Lina Palmér, Kristina Nässén, Fiona Cowdell, Elisabeth Lindberg

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    To describe the meaning of caring for older persons based on the experiences of nursing students in Greece.

    The present study is conducted based on a caring science perspective derived from a holistic viewpoint of human beings, aiming to support the well-being of older persons. In Greece, informal caregivers play an important role in caring for older people; however, as the population ages, the need for registered nurses specialising in caring for older people is also increasing. Previous research in other countries has reported a relative lack of interest in this field, which is a threat to the quality of care. To ensure an adequate number of new-generation nurses caring for older people, nursing students’ perceptions of the phenomenon of caring for older persons should be well understood and explored in a context where the number of long-term care beds and residential care facilities are low and where informal caregiving is common.

    Based on Descriptive Phenomenology, in line with the Reflective Lifeworld Research (RLR) approach.

    A total of 12 nursing students at a university in Greece underwent in-depth lifeworld interviews online during June and July 2021 and March 2022; Interviews were transcribed verbatim and were analysed according to the principles of RLR that approaches the phenomena with openness and constant reflection. The participants were students in their fourth or fifth year of nursing education; they had previous experience in older person care and were not acquainted with the authors.

    The results show the essential structure of the meaning of caring for older persons, where otherness consists of intertwined demanding and rewarding elements. The essence is further conveyed by three constituents: otherness of the older person: witnessing someone’s vulnerability; trustful caring: struggling with normative structures; and closeness and distance: balancing between familiarity and professionalism.

    To ensure quality of care for older persons in the future, an understanding of how nursing students describe their experiences of caring for older persons during education is important. Balancing between familiarity and professionalism highlights the need for further reflection on professionalism and dignity and identifying the norms and values helps to highlight particularities of the context and national healthcare system. Curricula focusing on cultivating students’ preunderstanding, regarding caring for older persons are required to promote a higher quality of care in the future. Caring science can contribute to a focus on a holistic perspective in caring for older people.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number103695
    JournalNursing Education in Practice
    Publication statusPublished (VoR) - 26 Jun 2023


    • Education
    • Greece
    • health care
    • informal caregivers
    • nurses
    • nursing care
    • nursing students
    • older adults
    • qualitative research methods


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