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A Narrative Analysis of Nurses' Experiences With Meaning and Joy in Nursing Practice

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Health care transformation is guided by the triple aim of improving health, enhancing the patient experience, and reducing costs. Experts have recommended the addition of a fourth aim, improving the experience of providing care. They advise that achievement of the triple aim will only be possible if we create the conditions where health care workers can find meaning and joy in their work. Nurses' experiences with meaning and joy in their practice have not been well described. In an effort to fill this knowledge gap, nurses across the nation recently participated in a qualitative study to share their experiences with meaning and joy in their nursing practice. The study utilized a narrative inquiry approach with a lens of appreciation to elicit and interpret nurses' stories. The stories, recorded and archived in StoryCorps, provided rich insight into meaning and joy in nursing practice. The study captured contemporary themes that crossed practice settings and generations across the United States. Four themes emerged from the analysis, including: fulfilling purpose—“I am a nurse”; meaningful connection; impact—the wow factor; and the practice environment. The practice environment theme included 3 subthemes: teams work, leaders model the way, and opportunities to learn and grow. The themes are described and illustrated with participant quotes. The study findings build on published evidence related to meaning in nursing practice and our conceptual understanding of joy. Results align with recommendations for defining and focusing on the fourth aim: To improve the practice experiences of nurses so they can more fully contribute to achieving both the triple aim in health care and their own well-being. Specific implications for leaders and supportive practice environments are discussed.

Keywords: impact; joy; meaning; meaningful connection; nurse stories; purpose

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2018

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