The essence of Nurses' lived experience of empathy in nurse-patient interactions

Swegle, Joyce
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The domain of this study was stated as: What is the essence of nurses' lived experience of empathy in a nurse-patient interaction? The purpose of the study was to identify the essential structure of empathy and to construct a framework of the lived experience of empathy from the perspective of the nurse empathizer in nurse-patient interactions. The study was conducted using a phenomenological orientation.

The purposive sample for the study consisted of five registered nurses who could identify an empathic nurse-patient interaction which they had participated in. The participants also demonstrated an ability and willingness to express themselves in the manner necessary for the study.

Interviews were used to obtain the participants' experiences of empathy in nurse-patient interactions. These descriptions were analyzed using Colaizzi's (1978) method. The study elicited the following essential structure of empathy: (1) Empathy is a passive and active process in which a nurse imaginatively assumes the role of an identified other. (2) An awareness of the imagined experience provides a framework for nursing intervention. (3) The nurse becomes involved with the patient and his family through repeated interactions. (4) Involvement is contingent upon the length of contact and realized through a mutual responsiveness between the nurse and identified other. (5) Alternative perceptions, decisions, and actions are interjected. (6) The nurse inspires hope in the patient and his family. (7) The nurse becomes cognizant after interaction with the patient or family member of his level of coping as well as her own. (8) Measures are taken to support and facilitate coping for all parties involved. (9) Barriers to empathy development are related to factors which decrease time for involvement and inadequate or ineffective coping skills. (10) Empathy is distinguished by the nurse's belief that her interventions made a difference for the patient

Nurse-patient interactions, Empathy, Mental health