Ways and means to comfort people at the end of life: how is the nurse a privileged player in this process?

Raquel Alexandra Machado Pereira*, Patrícia Cruz Pontífice Sousa Valente Ribeiro

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review



Background: Comfort is a necessity throughout life, and it is a key element in the practice of nursing care for the patient at the end of life. A particular human need and a state related to the experience and culture of the person at the end of life constitute the target of attention and nursing intervention, being a very relevant indicator of the quality of health care. This article is part of a doctoral study in the field of comfort in a palliative care unit, and these are some of the partial results that emerged. Objectives: To understand the ways and means of comfort perceived by the person at the end-of-life hospitalized in a palliative care unit, their family, and health staff as well as the value of the nurse in this process. Design: Qualitative study using an ethnographic approach. Methods: We conducted semistructured interviews with 18 patients at the end of life and their matched significant family members (18) and 21 health professionals. We also conducted participant observation of care situations. Results/Discussion: The ways and means of providing comfort are centered on strategies developed by the entire multidisciplinary team. During this whole process, one of the categories that emerged from the ethnography was the nurse as a privileged player, representing an absolutely essential role in all phases. The results revealed that nurses play a very important role in end-of-life comfort, which is based on a predisposition for end-of-life care (active listening, empathy, congruence, and biographical narrative) and focused attention (global care, attention to detail, family support, and opposition to therapeutic obstinacy). Conclusions: The different ways and means of providing comfort aim to increase care, relieve, and invest in potential different forms of comfort and nurses are recognized by all those involved in this process as someone essential to providing comfort care.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalPalliative Care and Social Practice
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jul 2023


  • Comfort
  • Ethnography
  • Nursing
  • Palliative care


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