Original Research - Special Collection: Gender-based Violence

Professional nurses’ experience in providing nursing care to women experiencing gender-based violence: A caring presence study

Avhatakali Mphephu, Emmerentia du Plessis
Health SA Gesondheid | Vol 26 | a1658 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hsag.v26i0.1658 | © 2021 Avhatakali Mphephu, Emmerentia du Plessis | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 07 April 2021 | Published: 28 September 2021

About the author(s)

Avhatakali Mphephu, Department of Health, Tshilidzini Hospital, Thohoyandou, South Africa
Emmerentia du Plessis, NuMIQ Research Focus Area, Faculty of Health Science, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa


Background: Women in a sub-district of one of the most rural provinces in South Africa are at a high risk of experiencing gender-based violence. Professional nurses are at the frontline of providing healthcare to these women. Caring presence is a valuable resource to professional nurses in these settings.

Aim: To explore and describe the experiences of professional nurses in providing nursing care to women experiencing gender-based violence.

Setting: A primary health clinic, community health centre, out-patient department and emergency department in the rural sub-district.

Methods: An interpretive phenomenological design was applied. Purposive sampling was used and semi-structured one-on-one interviews were held with professional nurses. Interpretive phenomenological analysis was done and data saturation was achieved (n = 15).

Results: Participants were willing to provide nursing care but worked in difficult environments, and their level of competence influenced how they engaged with these women. They realised that the lifeworld of the women made it difficult for them to disclose that they are experiencing gender-based violence. Participants emphasised the importance of multidisciplinary and multi-sectoral collaboration. A final theme, caring presence, also emerged.

Conclusion: Participants felt compassion and were willing to provide nursing care. However, they experienced reluctance due to hindrances that limited them in connecting with and attuning to the women. This left them feeling frustrated, and with a deepened sense of empathy, as they realised how deeply the women are suffering. Recommendations were formulated.

Contribution: This study revealed nurses’ need to be guided in providing relational care to women who are experiencing gender-based violence. Based on the findings, it is recommended that infrastructure should be updated to ensure private and safe spaces for women, debriefing and training should be provided and multidisciplinary collaboration should be strengthened. Policy for improved referral systems, the assessment and management of women experiencing gender-based violence and the wellness of professional nurses should be developed.


caring; caring presence; experience; gender-based violence; professional nurses; rural area; women


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