Background: The need for dignity and compassion in healthcare is enshrined in policy, but is often difficult to enact in practice and what is precisely meant by these concepts is unclear. In this paper, we have explored theoretical underpinnings which form the basis of a lifeworld-led approach which was used in a research study to support the humanity of service providers and users alike. Aim: In this article, we share our analysis of what we have learnt after undertaking an innovative appreciative action research project with patients and staff in a stroke ward with the aim of exploring if a novel phenomenologically driven and philosophically derived humanising framework could be applied in health care. Following the research, we wanted to develop a theoretical understanding of the processes occurring during the research in order to provide a framework and language which could be used to support practical lifeworld developments in the future. We analysed the approach through Participatory and Appreciative Action Reflection. Findings: As researchers, we found that the approach was underpinned by four key existential principles. The first principle was recognising a mutually arising reality rather than a reality ‘out there’. The second was recognising a reality which was constantly changing rather than ‘fixed’. The third was recognising that we needed to work from within, as part of a human living system rather than trying to control reality from the ‘outside’. Finally, we recognised that this reality could only be accessed through human knowing, including embodied knowing rather than intellectual knowing alone. These principles challenged many of the usual ways of thinking and working within research and healthcare contexts. Conclusion: Understanding the processes and reality in this way gave new perspectives; enhancing our understandings and views of ourselves, what is important and most importantly what is possible in caring systems.
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- humanising practice