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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The experiences of intensive care unit nurses providing care to the brain dead patient Borozny, Margaret


This study describes the meaning intensive care unit nurses attach to their care of the brain dead patient. A phenomenological methodology was used because of its intent to understand experience as it is lived. Because these patients constitute a unique class of dead patients which require intensive nursing care and because of the scarcity of information available on the subjective experience of nurses who provide this care, the study was considered to be essential to fillful a gap in our knowledge. Data were collected through 28 interviews with 11 Caucasian female participants who work in the intensive care units of a tertiary and a quaternary care hospital within the greater Vancouver area. Their ages ranged from their early twenties to over forty years of age. They represented five religious demoninations with one participant having no religious affiliations. One nurse had cared for between two and five brain dead patients, four had provided care for six to ten brain dead patients, and six had cared for more than ten brain dead patients. Throughout the participants' accounts dissonance was the pervasive and unifying theme. The dissonance was seen in the form of either personal or interpersonal discord. The former was seen in relation to five areas: the participant's philosophy about nursing, traditional nursing care activities, the concept of brain death, organ retrieval and transplantation, and professional responsibilities in relation to meeting the nurse's own emotional needs. In contrast, the latter occurred between the nurse and families, physicians, the Pacific Organ Retrieval for Transplantation Team and nursing colleagues. Either form of dissonance results in personal distress and subsequent attempts to reduce the dissonance by distancing and/or designating another as the target of nursing care.

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