Being authentic and being a chameleon: nurse-patient interaction revisited Academic Article uri icon


  • This paper explores contradictory understandings of nurse-patient interaction arising through an exploration of 'being authentic' and 'being a chameleon'. The concepts arose during a critical praxis research study exploring nurse-patient relationships in the context of life-threatening or terminal illness. Being authentic can be understood as a dominant view in the nursing literature of the nurse-patient relationship, incorporating the value of being genuine. However, we argue that this concept offers only a partial and inadequate framework from which to understand nurse-patient interaction. The paper argues that nurse-patient relationships develop intersubjectively, with both the nurse and the patient choosing to reveal or conceal aspects of themselves in response to their interactions. Intersubjectivity as a concept provided the nurses in this study with a means for understanding how the nurse and the patient each contribute to interactions; nurse-patient relationships being understood as mutually constructed. These ideas are explored in this paper using examples from the nurses' stories, along with the implications raised for nursing practice.

publication date

  • June 1999