Only a whisper away. A philosophical view of the awake patient's situation during regional anaesthetics and surgery

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In this study the awake patient's intraoperative situation and experiences during regional anaesthetics and surgery are reflected upon by using the work of the French philosopher Maurice Merleau‐Ponty. Merleau‐Ponty's phenomenological idea of the body as being at the centre of the world highlights the patient's embodied position and bestows significance onto the body as a whole, as a lived body. A case, based on the findings from a previous interview study, is presented as a contextual starting point where a patient goes from having a familiar body recognized as her own to having a partially anaesthetized body experienced as an unknown object. The intraoperative caring space is described in this context as the mutual ground where the awake patient and the nurse anaesthetist (NA) can interact to create meaning. The NA can act as the patient's bodily extension to bridge the gap between the patient's experiences and the situation. This calls for the NA's proximity and genuine presence in order to meet and understand the patient's awake experiences. Learning from the patient's situatedness gives information that is valuable for NAs to share with patients who are less experienced with this contextual situation. The challenge for the NA is not to perform routine‐based care, but to acknowledge every patient's lifeworld and uniqueness thus enabling the patient to move easily along the mind–body–world continuum. The core of intraoperative care is to provide support and promote well‐being of awake patients in the intraoperative environment. The use of a philosophical perspective is relevant for nurses who work in an intraoperative setting where patients undergo regional anaesthetics. This study shows how nursing research using phenomenological philosophy can help uncover new meanings known only to the patients living the experience.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Senior Lecturer, School of Health and Caring Sciences, Linnaeus University, Växjö, Sweden

Publication date: October 1, 2012

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