More Than Meets the Eye: Explicating the Essence of Gerontology Nursing
The purpose of this hermeneutic phenomenological study was to explore the essence of gerontology nursing. This project sought to look beyond the practical tasks and skills of gerontology nursing to reveal what is more than meets the eye and thereby explicate the essence of gerontological nursing practice.
Gerontology nursing is troubled by its unpopular status and negative image that in turn has serious implications for the recruitment and retention of nurses who are both willing and able to work in this field of nursing. The purpose for doing this study was to unveil a deeper meaning and understanding of gerontology nursing, thus contributing to its value and worth as a speciality area of nursing.
Conversations with four gerontology nurses were taped, transcribed and then analysed using van Manen’s (1990) approach to researching lived experience. From the analysis, four cardinal elements emerged: true acceptance, personal knowing, being present, and being alive. Those four cardinal elements were reworked and further analysed to reveal three central aspects or essences of gerontology nursing. These essences were the centrality of temporality, the interconnectedness of human relationships, and the significance of the lived body. Temporality is demonstrated by nursing application of objective, or clock time, as well as subjectively in regards to the lived time of the clients. Interconnectedness is the lived human relationship between nurse and client and is represented by commitment, presencing/giving of self, connecting, and knowing the client holistically. The third essence is corporeality, which is portrayed by the gerontology nurses’ distinguishing characteristics and their perception of the lived body of the nursed. The final analysis unveiled caring for the body, the act of seeing, and the joy of care as emergent essences of gerontology nursing. Language of nursing in relationship to ‘basic nursing care’ is critiqued for its potential to devalue gerontology nursing and, by association, old people.
The significance of these findings is that there is more than meets the eye in gerontology nursing, however, it is not widely known. To balance the abundance of literature about the science of gerontology nursing practice more research needs to be focused on the art. Establishing and disseminating a clearer, complete picture of gerontology nursing would go toward not only changing its negative image, but may also address recruitment and retention issues. Furthermore, this study has highlighted the need to recruit nurses who possess the necessary personal attributes to ensure they ‘fit’ into gerontology nursing.