Nurses transforming the spousal caregiving experience
The purpose of this qualitative research study was to answer the following questions: What is the life pattern manifested by individuals caring for spouses who have had coronary artery bypass surgery? What are the thematic expressions of life patterns among individuals caring for spouses who have had coronary artery bypass surgery? The theoretical framework guiding this study was Margaret Newman’s Health as Expanding Consciousness. The research method created by Newman facilitated the understanding of the individual participant’s experience, pattern identification, similarities in pattern across participants and the potential for expansion of consciousness. The study sample included ten women and two men whose spouses were recovering at home following cardiac surgery. These twelve spousal caregivers shared their life stories and their spousal caregiving experience in the first two weeks at home following their spouses discharge from the hospital. There were various levels of potential for expansion of consciousness for these spousal caregivers. Looking across participants six themes emerged from the data. First, disruption in the spousal caregivers’ roles and responsibilities impacts the relationship between the spousal caregivers and their spouses and shifts life patterns. Second, spousal caregivers face coping challenges with changes in lifestyle and response to illness. Third, Spousal caregivers experience vigilance in an effort to ease the uncertainty of the recovery process. Fourth, knowledge helps spousal caregivers gain a sense control in the face of uncertainty. Fifth, mutuality within the partnership of nurse and the spousal caregiver relationship impacts the potential for transformation. Sixth, Spousal caregivers’ awareness of their life pattern gives meaning and offers the caregivers a new perception on life they have left to live. Findings from this study have important implications for nursing theory, practice, research, education and health care policy. The study adds empirical support to Newman’s Theory of Health as Expanding Consciousness and provides a new way to examine spousal caregiving and the nurse-client relationship.