In hospital out-patient departments, on a daily basis, nurses are in direct contact with their patients and are the best placed to listen to their concerns. These are favourable occasions for developing relationships of trust and also for receiving confidences. In fact, in the eyes of the patient, the doctor occupies a place apart in the therapeutic hierarchy, which will have the corollary that often the patient will avoid bothering the doctor with emotional problems which he feels are of secondary importance or, worse, may risk imperilling the consistency of his care. The patient has a quite special way of protecting his doctor by making all sorts of plausible excuses for him: he is too busy, he is preoccupied with technology, or he is over-tired. On the traditionally feminine side of the team, the nurse (whether male or female) is in a much better position to hear about whatever is going wrong. This is an important aspect of the patient’s experience, though it is often hidden because, when he is doubtful, demoralized or distressed, he tends to be afraid that he will not come up to scratch. Poletti makes the following comment:

The act of nursing is only expressed in the relationship with another person. To care is always to enter into a relationship with a person or a group. To care is to offer to another possibilities of developing his potential and of choosing what is the best action or solution for him, at this moment, in the context in which he finds himself.