The lived experience of registered nurses, 1930-1950: A phenomenological study
Byers, Beverly Knowles
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Historical accounts of nursing education and nursing practice give meaning for the education and practice of nursing today. There are limited written stories of the lived experiences of nurses who were trained and practiced nursing in the years between 1930 and 1950. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to gain Insight into the experiences of registered nurses during this time period. In an effort to locate participants for the study, five nurse educators were asked to supply names of retired nurses who might meet the criteria. The seven retired nurses were contacted and agreed to participate in the study. They knew other nurses who were contacted and as a result, thirteen nurses met the criteria of having been trained in nursing and practiced nursing at least three years between 1930 and 1950. This phenomenological study was conducted In Texas at four different sites from the Panhandle to southeastern Texas. Semi-structured interviews with thirteen retired nurses revealed their perceptions and reactions to their roles as nursing students and as practicing nurses in the years 1930 to 1950. The intent of the analysis of data was to uncover the themes that were descriptive of the nurses' lived experiences as nursing students and practicing nurses In that era. Colaizzi's method of analysis was used to uncover themes in the transcribed interviews and the written questionnaire. There are few personal accounts of the experiences of nurses who practiced during the twenty-year time period selected for this study. This phenomenological study uncovered the lived experiences of thirteen retired nurses who were willing to talk about their lived experiences as nursing students and practicing nurses. The nurses in this study were impacted by social and economic events of this era and by World War II and the Great Depression that affected the role of women in general. The most consistently recurring themes were coring, compassion, pride in being a nurse and having no regrets. Many of the themes involved their awareness of the humanity of suffering persons. Themes identified in this study include, "strength of relationships," "equality in humor suffering," and "risking self to serve others." The essential theme is "the preciousness of life." It is in this theme that the nurses' stories converged into on overall essential theme that reflects the quality and fragileness of life.