An investigation of suffering through the examination of the lived experiences of hospice patients
Dr. Junko M. Mills, PhD, RN
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Although there is a historical and philosophical link between nursing and the suffering of people, a review of literature revealed that there are only a limited number of articles treating suffering conceptually or analytically, and the experience of suffering is under-analyzed. Further, a review of literature also revealed that the lived experiences of hospice patients, which were identified to be an appropriate place to begin an investigation of suffering, have not been well investigated. Accordingly, the two aims of this study were to describe the lived experiences of hospice patients, and to understand what their experiences can inform us about the concept of suffering. Seven hospice patients were interviewed between 2 and 12 times, with each interview lasting between 30 minutes and 2 hours. In each interview, the participants were asked to talk about whatever they wished. The conversations were tape-recorded, transcribed, and interpreted through a hermeneutic phenomenological analysis based on the existential philosophy of Martin Heidegger and the phenomenological approach described by van Marten. Through interpretation, five themes were identified in the lived experiences of the participants. First, the participants experienced a clear starting point of their illness experiences. Second, the participants experienced the deterioration of their body. Third, the participants experienced isolation, spatially-physically and relationally-socially. In addition, the participants also experienced existential-experiential isolation. Fourth, the participants experienced uncertainty in their everyday lives. And fifth, despite their physical deterioration, the participants experienced their existence as a Being with possibilities, rather than a Being with no future possibilities. The participants also identified several helpful and aggravating things in their everyday living. Based on the findings of this study, suffering was defined as a threat to the Understanding of Being, and the attributes of suffering found in the literature were reexamined. Also, this study revealed social, cultural, and institutional elements impacting hospice patients' lives. These were discussed in relation to the philosophy of Heidegger and Foucault. The strengths and limitations of the study, and the significant implications of the findings for further research, practice and education in nursing, were identified.
This dissertation has also been disseminated through the ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. Dissertation/thesis number: 9967062; ProQuest document ID: 304622623. The author still retains copyright.
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