Concerning care in the context of the nursing profession: A phenomenological investigation.

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University of Fort Hare


This dissertation is concerned with the phenomenological question of lack of care in the face of Martin Heidegger’s placing care as a base for being. More specifically with the question: How is Heidegger’s ontological notion of care to be understood from within the contexts of healthcare, in general, and nursing in particular? Furthermore, deep within this notion of care there is always the option to not care which, although care is always contained in the various modes of Heidegger's Dasein, can be a contemporary enigma demanding investigation. In approaching the interpretation of what it is to care, the question will be confronted on three fronts: (a) to interrogate, in the context of healthcare, Heidegger’s conception of the phenomenological situation of care in his writings up to and including his Being and Time; (b) then to delve into the phenomenon of lack of care that seems to have appeared in the provision of healthcare in recent times; and, in an attempt to explain this lack, (c) to expand on Heidegger’s early conception of care more broadly out into the world by postulating a diachronic emphasis by introducing elements from the developmental psychology of Erik Erikson. It is argued that this is necessary in order to begin to understand provenance of the notion of lack of care within the sphere of healthcare. As nursing is considered an epitome of caring, the profession will be used as a vehicle to illustrate the phenomenon of lack of care and how this is possible when care is the basis of Being in the world. Thus the final section will bring out through the lens of lack of care the predicates of caring as they apply to the healthcare professions, and, just as importantly, other areas of human endeavour, for that matter. These predicates, it is postulated, are an accretion of five elements: development of the care-of, assumption of some level of authority, introduction of curiosity into the engagement with the world of people and things, an understanding of the role of empathy, and, finally, advocacy in the face of disturbance. It is further postulated that none of these predicates are a given, that, in an enabling environment, they unfold out of each other to create a caring person.