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Lived Experience of Being a Nurse from a Male and Female Perspective

Literature search

Lived experience is the starting point and the end point of phenomenological research’ (Van Manen, 1990). The phenomenological psychology approach applies concepts of phenomenological philosophy as ‘a return to the things themselves’ (Husserl, 1900, translated 1970). This approach focuses on people’s perception of the world in which they live and what this means to them. It is a focus on people’s lived experience or their‘lifeworld’. Heidegger (1962) argues that all experience must be viewed in the context of the embodied experience of each individual in relation to the experience being examined. Existentialist considerations are involved in this process by looking at the question of being or ‘ontology’; this concerns establishing universal forms involved in human existence, such as our experiences of time (temporality), space (spatiality), our bodies (embodiment) and other people (intersubjectivity), as well as the way each individual exists in the world. 

Literature search The background research identified eight articles that looked at the gendered experience of being a nurse, six from the male perspective and two from the female, but none comparing these experiences. The author was surprised that only eight articles could be found when more than 680 000 nurses were registered in the UK in 2006, of whom only 10.73% were male (Nursing and Midwifery Council, 2012).It is perhaps less surprising that there were three times as many articles written from the male perspective than from the female perspective,as men are the minority group within the profession.

As the author found only eight research articles looking at the gendered experience of nursing and no articles comparing male and female experiences, she felt it would be insightful to complete a research study that looked at the male and female nursing experience simultaneously, while acknowledging her role of the researcher as both a woman and a nurse. The results from such research could lead to answers to the following questions:

? Why is there so little research on the gendered experience of nursing?

? Does the issue of gender need to be emphasised in nurse education?

? Do we need to be more mindful of providing genderspecific support to nursing staff in the clinical setting?

The British Psychological Society’s Code of Ethics and Conduct (BPS, 2009) was met by following the four ethical principles of respect, competence, responsibility and integrity. The ethical considerations for this research looked to protect the research participants and included informed consent, the right to withdraw, confidentiality, debriefing and opportunities to give feedback. Each participant was given a research instruction and consent agreement form before the interview, which outlined their right to withdraw and have their data destroyed at any point during the research process, stated they did not have to answer any questions if they did not wish to do so and that their data would be presented as anonymous. Confidentiality was maintained in the storage of the consent records. Following the interview, the participants were given a debriefing document that explained the research that they had taken part in and its purpose, including the references for articles used should they wish to find out more.All data was stored in a secure place to ensure confidentiality and data protection rules were met.

Aims and objectives

The participants were approached as work colleagues of the researcher and asked to take part in the research. No inducements were offered for participation.The participants were one male nurse and one female nurse, both of whom were working in district nursing. Both were in their late 20s and had been qualified for more than 6 years.

Data collection included the use of individual semistructured interviews and reflexive field notes. The interviews were carried out in a quiet room using prepared open-ended questions and were recorded onto a laptop. Both participants were encouraged to provide as much detail as they could when answering the questions so the researcher had as much richly described experience as possible. Both were asked at the end of the interview if they had anything to add that they thought might be relevant. Topics included in the interview schedule were whether they had always wanted to be a nurse, their expectations of nursing, what being a nurse is like, how they would describe the experience of nursing, how they think being a nurse affects the sense of self, how they think it affects other people’s perceptions, how do they feel patients treat you as a female/male nurse as opposed to a male/female nurse, and whether, in their experience, there are different expectations of male and female nurses. Reflexive notes were made during the research process and used to inform the transcription and discussion.

The transcribed interviews were analysed using the phenomenological approach, which focuses on experience, emphasises rich description and uses epoche (bracketing).This phenomenological reduction requires that researchers describe and do not explain the experience, do not horizontalise the phenomena by producing hierarchies of meaning, and treatall themes with equal importance, and constantly check the understanding of the data to ensure that the their understanding is a true reflection of the participants’ experience, not their perception of the participants’ experience. The author endeavoured to use epoche to bracket her own expectations while also recognising that the findings are an interpretation and therefore could be interpreted differently by different people (Ayres and Poirier, 1996).

During the thematic analysis, three main themes emerged. One was intersubjectivity, which is an essential feature of the lifeworld; the other two were career versus vocation and gender stereotyping. The first theme, intersubjectivity, refers to the lifeworld feature of the experience of relationships with other people. It was present equally,with the male nurse (MN) making four references to this and the female nurse (FN) five references. As nursing is a ‘caring for people’ profession, this was always likely to be represented.As Taylor (1993) states.

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