Phenomenological Study of Military Nurse Veterans


Name: Marietta Stanton


Organization: Research Foundation of State University of New York on behalf of SUNY at Buffalo

Performance Site: University at Buffalo School of Nursing, Buffalo, NY

Year Published: 1993

Abstract Status: Final


The purpose of this phenomenological study of military nurse veterans was designed to: (1) examine and compare the experiences, feelings, and perceptions of active duty U.S. military nurses who served in World War II, Vietnam, and/or Operation Desert Storm; (2) determine if there are common themes, shared meanings, or common behavioral sequelae/outcomes related to these experiences, feelings, and perceptions; (3) determine if there are common themes or shared meanings regarding personal strategies/approaches for integrating the wartime/conflict experience into civilian life experiences; and (4) determine if veteran nurses in the study indicate common approaches or shared strategies which will enhance a sense of military nursing history cohesion.Twenty-two nurses recruited from a local and a national veterans group were interviewed individually using unstructured and open-ended interviews which were audio taped, transcribed, and analyzed by a research team of four doctorally prepared nursing consultants.Results indicate that military nurses do share similar perceptions and feelings about their war or conflict experience. Shared meanings were categorized according to five common themes: (1) reacting personally to the war experience, (2) living in the military, (3) the meaning of nursing in the military, (4) social interacting, and (5) the images and sensations of war. Adjusting as a means of surviving was identified as a common thread in the experiences of nurses and included adjustments to military life, adverse living conditions, war, and the nursing role in combat situations. Shared perceptions and experiences seemed to transcend branch of service, period of military service, gender, and ethnic or racial background. Although little difference was reported in the occurrence of themes from war to war, feelings of anger and resentment were more prevalent in Vietnam veteran nurses. Shared behavioral sequelae included nightmares, flashbacks, panic attacks, and most commonly, denial and repression of feelings. Among the common strategies reported for integrating the conflict experience in personal/professional lives were: (1) the pursuit of advanced nursing education, and (2) sharing of feelings with other veterans. The nurses indicated that the role of the nurse during combat advanced their civilian professional nursing practice in the postwar period, and thereby enhanced a sense of the importance of military nursing history. All of the nurses interviewed identified the following attributes of combat duty: (1) the lack of preparation for the hardships, (2) the increased physical workload and emotional stress, and (3) the greater complexity of clinical nursing care.Results of this study highlight the need to prepare future military nurses not only for the clinical challenges of combat duty but also for the emotional stresses and trauma that they will face. It is also suggested that the common themes and shared meanings identified in this study could be used to construct a survey tool for a broader examination of nurse veterans, and could serve as the basis for a quantitative study to detect the subtle differences within any one group of nurse veterans.FINAL REPORT UNAVAILABLE