• Learning to care for patients who are suffering: The lived experience of students in nursing

      Eifried, Sharon Beale; Neal, Maggie T. (1998)
      Students in nursing often reveal how helpless they feel in responding to the suffering of patients they care for in their clinical experiences. Nursing faculty describe the struggle they undertake in teaching students to assist patients in their suffering, and some even wonder if it is possible. Yet, faculty often bring students into situations of suffering throughout their learning experiences. It is time for nurse educators to acknowledge the vulnerability of students as they struggle to respond to suffering. How can educators bring a pedagogy of suffering closer to the center of the educational experience? Attending to the stories of students about suffering can assist nurse educators in creating a curriculum that prepares students to be present to suffering patients. The purpose of this study was to explore the meanings of the lived experience of nursing students as they care for patients who are suffering. In this interpretive phenomenological study, 13 nursing students participated in conversational interviews and wrote narratives about their experiences of being with someone who is suffering. Embedded in the students' stories are the ways they come to understand suffering in the context of learning to practice nursing. The metatheme of bearing witness to suffering emerged from the analysis of the students' reflections. Bearing witness was illuminated with the subthemes of grappling with suffering, struggling with the ineffable, getting through, being with suffering patients, embodying the experience of suffering, and seeing possibilities in suffering. Bearing witness to suffering patients calls the students to an awareness of their own vulnerability. A concern for learning amid suffering was present throughout the students' text. The call to care can be sustained through a pedagogy of suffering that acknowledges the need for support through a caring community. The inquiry is grounded in hermeneutic philosophy and relevant literature. Selected ways of knowing are suggested as potential resources for a pedagogy of suffering. This study opens the door to possibilities of helping students learn about suffering and describes pedagogic practices for nurse educators who are present to students as they learn to care for patients who are suffering.