An Ethnoscientific Analysis of Comfort: A Preliminary Investigation

Janice M. Morse


Comfort is the most important nursing action in the provision of nursing care for the sick. Whereas caring provides motivation for the nurse to nurse and to provide maintenance, restorative, and preventative actions to promote health, comforting is the major instrument for care in the clinical setting.
In spite of extensive admonitions during most of the present century for nurses to "make their patients comfortable," research that has focused on comfort has used a limited approach. For example, it has examined separately physiological measures (such as exercise, massage or pharmacology) or technological measures (such as improved hospital milieux or gadgetry). Ironically, there is little known about the human act of comforting per se, or about the nurses' or patients' perception of comforting. The purpose of this paper is twofold. The first task is to explore comfort as a construct, in an attempt to understand parameters and dimensions of this act, so that clarifying and defining comfort may stimulate further research in this area. The second purpose is to demonstrate the use of a qualitative methodology, ethnoscience, for nursing research. Thus far few studies in nursing have used this technique (Bush, Ullom, & Osborne, 1975; Evaneshko & Bauwens, 1976). As many nursing problems lend themselves to the use of ethnoscience it is hoped that it will be used more widely in the future.

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