The International Journal of Health, Wellness, and Society offers an annual award for newly published research or thinking that has been recognized to be outstanding by members of the Health, Wellness, & Society Research Network.
Love as a fundamental element of wellbeing is a phenomenon that has been explored since questions of philosophy began. Only in more recent times has love been explored in healthcare, though most likely, it has always been there. Part of everyday life, love’s necessity in wellness, illness, and even healthcare is increasingly recognized, for in the absence of love, illness, addiction, failure-to-thrive, and death are seen. Yet understanding the experience of love in healthcare is limited, particularly from the nurse’s perspective, regardless of the idea that perhaps the profession itself is based on altruistic love for humanity. This research aimed to increase understanding of love in healthcare from the nurse’s perspective using a qualitative Gadamerian approach and the hermeneutic circle. A Fusion-of-Horizons between previous understandings, and the photography and interview experiences of six nurse participants, was created. It was discovered that love manifests in forms of being, awareness, action, and connection, that love present in healthcare is reflective of love in life, and that understanding of love comes through the experience of it. Much more on love has yet to be learned, and though it certainly exists in healthcare, it is not yet present to the extent it could be. Research such as this, which focuses on illuminating the concept of love, could prove beneficial to healthcare and humanity. A new model was developed to illustrate the concept of love in healthcare for providers situated in the heartfelt work of caring. This model is important for understanding because love can neither be separated from the health needs of a patient nor the nurses who provide care. As a fundamental element of wellbeing, love and self-love facilitate the healing process; the ultimate goal of medical care. Education is key to its application and recommendations for heart-centered practice are included in this article.
This article based on the concept of love in nursing and healthcare practice was a work long in the making, and definitely not without challenges! Based on my thesis for my Master’s of Nursing degree, the idea to study love in healthcare was inspired after a personal injury that occurred in nursing practice. During my recovery journey, I became acutely aware of the importance of feeling cared for by the professionals caring for me. Caring and love are closely connected, and I defined caring as love in action and that caring and compassion come from a source of unconditional, altruistic love. I wanted to understand if providing support and love increases healing. I wondered if the presence of love protects against illness, injury and disease? And if caring comes from love, does love exist in healthcare or do nurses and other staff play a role in providing love to a patient? If love is present in healthcare, what does it look like, and how is it experienced? My research question was developed to be “what is the nurse’s experience of love in healthcare?” Regardless of the idea that the profession itself may be based on love for humanity, understanding of love in nursing is limited, therefore, I used photography and interviews to look in-depth at this concept. My thesis committee Donna, Penny and Jeanette, (PhD and Master prepared nursing professors from the University of British Columbia, Okanagan) believed and supported my study of love in nursing and guided me through the research process helping to mold the thesis and article into what it is today. They helped me see the vision at times when I no longer could.
As a fundamental element of wellbeing, love is a phenomenon that has been explored throughout history since questions of philosophy began. Though most probably love has always existed in the realm of healthcare, in more recent times its presence is being acknowledge and components of the phenomenon required in practice such as respect, support, care and presence are now being recognized as components of love. Part of everyday life, love’s necessity in wellness, illness, and the field of healthcare is becoming acknowledged, for in the absence of love, illness, addiction, failure-to-thrive and death are seen. In my studies it was discovered that love in nursing manifests as forms of being, awareness, action and connection, that this love cannot truly be understood unless it is experienced, and that love in healthcare is reflective of love in life. Though love certainly exists in healthcare, it is not yet present or understood to the extent that it could be, therefore, research like this study which focuses on illuminating the concept of love, could prove beneficial to healthcare and humanity. Learning how to compassionately respond to illness with love can ease the suffering of illness and improve the provision of care. Deeper understanding of the interactions of love has the potential to increase wellbeing and inform practice, contributing to nursing and healthcare knowledge worldwide.
—Sky Snook Donna Kurtz, Penelope Cash, and Jeanette Vinek
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