1st Edition

Palliative Care Nursing as Mindfulness Embodying a Relational Ethic through Strong Emotion, Uncertainty and Death

By Lacie White Copyright 2021
    154 Pages 13 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    As nurses, we hear about mindfulness all the time, but what does that actually mean in practice? In this book readers are invited into conversation to explore how mindfulness influences palliative care nurses’ approaches to caring for themselves and others through experiences of living-dying.

    Under the guise of stress reduction and self-care, the assumption often made is that mindfulness can smooth out difficult experiences. Instead, the objective of this inquiry is not to bypass the practice of caring in those spaces that are really hard, but to understand how nurses are working directly within them. Calling out from the shadows—and our bodies—the intensity of palliative care nursing practice arises. In this text, a dialogue unfolds of nurses caring in deeply meaningful practice environments while searching for ground that is perpetually shifting, uncertain, and fraught with suffering and strong emotion. Integrating literature across nursing, sociology, and contemplative scholarship, evocative stories from palliative care nurses lead in this conversation—their words in italics—showing how they are guided into action through connection with-in their bodies. At other times, stories show how nurses are taking pause and drawing on various somatic practices to unravel entanglements that touch on their own humanity. These stories also offer insight into how systemic forces, across educational and organizational institutions, are either enhancing or constraining the way nurses engage mindfulness as a relationally embodied ethic of care. This insightful volume is not a how-to guide, rather it is a timely resource exploring approaches for palliative care nurses to care for themselves and others with mindfulness and compassion.

    Those seeking nuanced perspectives, particularly in relation to embodying mindfulness through suffering and strong emotion, will be drawn to this text. Qualitative researchers studying emotionally sensitive topics may also find inspiration in the narrative, arts-based, and embodied methods that shape this inquiry.

    Turn 1. A beginning: Walking a labyrinth of stories, Turn 2.Storying mindfulness in palliative care nursing, Turn 3. "Mindfulness gets thrown around all the time, but what does that actually mean in practice?", Turn 4. "You still want to have a tender heart": Embodied vulnerability, Turn 5. "Making Space" through somatic practices of self-awareness and care, Turn 6. Re-storying mindfulness in palliative care nursing, Turn 7. Beginning again: A conclusion


    Lacie White is an Assistant Professor with the School of Nursing at Cape Breton University. Lacie was awarded the Governor General’s Gold Medal from the University of Ottawa for her dissertation. With a clinical background in palliative and hospice care, her interests across research and nursing education include relational ethics, embodiment through strong emotion and uncertainty, and contemplative approaches to practice. Lacie seeks to draw on emergent narrative and arts-based methods to explore the more intangible aspects of experience.


    Anne Bruce is a Professor with the University of Victoria, School of Nursing. Anne’s approaches to research and teaching invite students into the in-between spaces of our professional and personal lives. Her research interests include experiences with medical assistance in dying, living with fatal chronic conditions, and the power of storytelling in health and healing. She teaches in the MN-Advanced Practice Nursing and PhD programs where she witnesses how nursing research can inspire, transform, and generate life-long passions.

    Christine McPherson is a Registered Nurse and psychologist who attained her Ph.D. from King’s College, London (UK). She is an Associate Professor in the School of Nursing at the University of Ottawa, where she teaches research, palliative care, and ethics. Her research focuses on psychosocial and relational aspects of palliative care. Her recent research is on nurses' moral suffering. She is a strong advocate for equity in access to palliative care and has led the development of nursing practice guidelines to build capacity in palliative care across care settings.

    'Lacie White’s book is a portable support group for healthcare professionals. White presents her research not as impersonal findings, but as living voices of nurses who speak us as we walk through the labyrinth that structures her book. Thus instead of telling how to practice, White offers companionship in bearing the emotional and physical burdens of end-of-life care. The book can be read continuously or dipped into for moments of insight into compassionate care. Read either way, White evokes mindfulness rather than seeking to define it. Palliative Care Nursing as Mindfulness makes its readers more mindful as we walk its labyrinth.'

    –Arthur W. Frank, Ph.D., FRSC, author of The Wounded Storyteller and Letting Stories Breathe.


    'With the first words of Dr. White’s book "Listen. I have a story to tell", you will be swiftly swept into a journey that both opens minds and possibilities. In an artful and innovative way, she composes her writing like a labyrinth so that you are drawn into a sense of mindfulness about palliative care nursing. Her book is the epitome of how to experiment and play with one’s writing – it advances the field of arts-based research in ways that I have not seen before.'

    –Dr. Jennifer Lapum, Professor, Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing, Ryerson University, Canada


    'Lacie White beautifully weaves together storytelling, mindfulness, and the power of authentic connection in palliative care nursing. Powerful reminder of the joy and meaning of being a nurse, especially in caring for those in the last phase of their lives.' 

    –Susan Bauer-Wu, PhD, RN, FAAN, author of Leaves Falling Gently: Living Fully with Serious & Life-Limiting Illness through Mindfulness, Compassion, & Connectedness, and president of the Mind & Life Institute