What is fundamental care?

Most of us provide care for ourselves (or our loved ones) every day to ensure we stay healthy and well. We shower, eat breakfast, brush our teeth, exercise, and sleep. When we are ill or injured, however, we often can’t engage in these activities in the same way. We might need help, such as from a health professional, to ensure our most fundamental needs are met. This is known as fundamental care: the care required by everyone, regardless of the setting in which they are receiving care or what they are receiving care for (e.g., type of illness or condition).

Defining fundamental care

Fundamental care involves actions on the part of the nurse that respect and focus on a person’s essential needs to ensure their physical and psychosocial wellbeing. These needs are met by developing a positive and trusting relationship with the person being cared for as well as their family/carers.

Despite the importance of fundamental care to all of us who will (at some point) find ourselves requiring care or support from a health professional, definitions for fundamental care have been few and far between. Most definitions have relied simply on a list of activities (e.g., mobility, nutrition etc.), although not all definitions necessarily agree on what activities constitute fundamental care. As part of the ILC’s commitment to developing and implementing the best available research evidence on fundamental care, in 2016, a team of researchers from Australia, Sweden and New Zealand worked together to develop agreement on a definition for fundamental care and the activities that constitute such care. Through this collaborative project, the above working definition of fundamental care was generated.

The ILC will continue to refine our understanding of fundamental care and ensure that the way in which we conceptualise this care is reflective of the latest research evidence and clinician and consumer experience.

Reference: Feo, R., Conroy, T., Jangland. E., Muntlin Athlin, Å., Brovall, M., Parr, J., Blomberg, K., & Kitson, A. (2017). Towards a standardised definition for fundamental care: A modified Delphi study. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 27, 2285-2299. doi: 10.1111/jocn.14247