Indexed on: 06 Jun '09Published on: 06 Jun '09Published in: Journal of Advanced Nursing
This article is a report of a study of the impact of caring for abused women on nurses' professional and personal life experiences.Encountering abused women can have emotional, cognitive and behavioural influences on nurses, known as vicarious traumatization. They may feel incompetent to deal with such an overwhelming problem and may avoid screening survivors of abuse. Thus, nurses treating these survivors need to be aware of their attitudes, emotions and differential responses during these interactions.A phenomenological study was carried out in 2005 in Israel. The data were collected using in-depth, interviews with 22 female Israeli nurses in hospitals and community healthcare clinics.Data analysis revealed one main theme, 'Struggling on work and home fronts', based on two subthemes: 'Encounter with domestic violence: a challenge to nurses' professional role perception' and 'Between work and home'. Nurses experience perplexity regarding abused women and their professional care. Encounters with these women challenge nurses' personal and professional attitudes, as well as influencing their personal lives (intimate relationships, parenthood and gender attitudes). These encounters induce empathy and compassion, but also anger and criticism towards abused women, creating emotional labour for the nurses.The dissonance between personal values, attitudes and emotions and the desirable professional intervention procedures might impede nurses' performance in caring for abused women. Implementing training programmes for screening and intervening with abused women might reduce the emotional labour required, enhance nurses' responses to domestic violence, and enable personal growth.