Nursing as a concept is difficult to grasp. The ideals of nursing were developed in a different time than today and nursing as a profession has different working conditions than before. The purpose of this study was to gain knowledge of surgical nurses’ perception of nursing care and to illuminate how this is affected by these conditions. Five focus group interviews with 19 nurses were conducted in a large surgical department in Denmark. The interviews show that the perception of nursing still involves an ideal of holism and presence. This creates frustrations, since it is not possible to achieve the perceived ideal due to the current working conditions, which focus on efficiency and measurements. Since the development in the healthcare sector seems to continue in the direction of requiring more efficiency, we need to address the potential consequences of the mismatch between nursing ideals and the focus on efficiency.

Keywords: nursing, surgical nursing, health care, holism, focus group interview