Feeling Like a Nurse: Re-Calling the Spirit of Nursing

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To explore the essential meaning of being a nurse.


Nine registered nurses were each asked to write a story of a time when they felt like a nurse. Analysis was informed by Heideggerian hermeneutic philosophy, seeking to reveal the phenomenon of “feeling like a nurse.”


As part of a workshop on phenomenological methodology, participants were invited to reflect on a personal experience of feeling like a nurse. These documents were analyzed according to the method of van Manen. Participants were kept informed throughout each phase.


Feelings announce primordial meaning of feeling like a nurse. Nurses experience the call as mood attuned by an anxiety that creates possibilities for authentic caring. It is a way of being that encompasses watching and acting, doing to and caring for, and taking over and giving back. Moreover, it is after the encounter that the essential meaning is more clearly revealed. We argue that there is value in continuing to question the meaning of “being a nurse.” Amid a complex and increasingly technological world, this calls the profession to remember the human encounter at the heart of all nursing.

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