Mediating worlds: the role of nurses as ritual specialists in caring for the dead and dying

Lindsey Sarah Buster, Karina Croucher, Laura Green, Christina Faull

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rituals are central to the everyday life of the nurse, yet the fundamental roles that rituals play in caring for the dead and dying has often been neglected. This paper explores modern palliative and post-mortem care – its practices, practitioners and arenas – against the background of long-held, global concerns regarding the dead and dying. Comparison with the archaeological and ethnographic records demonstrates©the ubiquitous and enduring practices surrounding death, and the centrality of ritual specialists to this complex social and biological process. This deep-time perspective highlights the importance of nurses, and their associated nursing rituals, in the transition of patients between life and death, and the
difficult journeys that nurse, patient and family undertake in this mediation between worlds. Such a perspective not only empowers nurses in their daily practices, and places nursing rituals firmly at the centre of modern palliative care work, but demonstrates the value of archaeology and ethnography in contextualising the challenges of today.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
Early online date17 Apr 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Apr 2023

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© 2023 The Author(s).

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