Nursing research indicates that serious illness and impending death influence the individual's self-image. Few studies define what self-image means. Thus it seems to be urgent to explore how nurses in palliative care perceive the concept of self-image, to get a deeper insight into the concept's applicability in palliative care.
To explore how nurses in palliative care perceive the concept of self-image.
Qualitative descriptive design.
In-depth interviews with 17 nurses in palliative care were analysed using phenomenography. The study gained ethical approval.
The concept of self-image was perceived as both a familiar and an unfamiliar concept. Four categories of description with a gradually increasing complexity were distinguished: Identity, Self-assessment, Social function and Self-knowledge. They represent the collective understanding of the concept and are illustrated in a 'self-image map'. The identity-category emerged as the most comprehensive one and includes the understanding of 'Who I am' in a multidimensional way.
The collective understanding of the concept of self-image include multi-dimensional aspects which not always were evident for the individual nurse. Thus, the concept of self-image needs to be more verbalised and reflected on if nurses are to be comfortable with it and adopt it in their caring context. The 'self-image map' can be used in this reflection to expand the understanding of the concept. If the multi-dimensional aspects of the concept self-image could be explored there are improved possibilities to make identity-promoting strategies visible and support person-centred care.