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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Can memoir contribute to a more collaborative approach to treating eating disorders that respects and includes the family? Robinson, Cathrine P.


Eating disorders are on the rise among adolescents in North America along with an increase in mortality rates due to complications associated with the disorder. Eating disorders also have a profound effect on families. Feelings of anxiety and depression, stress, and burnout are commonly associated with caring for an adolescent with an eating disorder. In addition to this, many families feel isolated and blamed by health-care professionals and receive little support, collaboration, or education about the disorder. Simultaneously, health-care professionals also struggle with feelings of frustration, stress, burnout, and judgmental attitudes towards families due to the lack of knowledge and understanding of eating disorders. There are gaps in the knowledge of health-care professionals, both in terms of understanding the disorder, and supporting patients and families of adolescents with eating disorders. This dissertation endeavoured to fill this gap. My main research question was “what contributions arise from writing a memoir about the impact on a family of a female adolescent with an eating disorder and the family’s encounters with health-care professionals?” My sub-questions were: a) “what is the outcome of sharing that memoir with health-care professionals?” and b) “how can this memoir contribute to a collaborative approach to treating eating disorders that respects and includes the family?” A qualitative study encompassing a two part design was used. Part one comprised the creation of a memoir of my journey through my daughter’s experience of an eating disorder from my perspectives as a mother, my interactions with health-care professionals, and my role as a health-care professional caring for adolescents with eating disorders. Part two involved the reading of the memoir by seven participants, all pediatric nurses whose practice included the care of adolescents with eating disorders. Through an online focus group, participants responded to pre-determined questions and to each others answers. Through this study, the value of a memoir was apparent as a way for nurses to reflect on their caring practice and to identify barriers to providing effective care. The memoir proved to be a catalyst for bringing additional resources to support nurses’ caring practice.  

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