A Grounded Theory Study of Nurses Who Care for Patients Who Are Victims of Sexual Violence
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Background: Sexual violence is a widespread traumatic event that has physical, psychological, financial, and spiritual implications for victims, their friends and family, and the community. The negative and long-term effects include poor health outcomes, depression, substance abuse disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Many nurses who treat these patients are inadequately trained.
Purpose: The treatment of nurses towards patients who are victims of sexual violence can mitigate or contribute to perceived revictimization of patients. The purpose of this qualitative study was to identify the processes and uncover the attitudes and behaviors of nurses without specialized training who care for patients who are victims of sexual violence. Additionally, the purpose was to generate a theory that describes the process that these nurses use to make decisions about how to provide proper care.
Philosophical Underpinnings: This qualitative constructivist grounded theory study was guided by symbolic interactionism and pragmatist philosophy.
Method: Charmaz’s grounded theory method of inquiry was used for this qualitative study. Data were collected with semistructured interviews with 13 emergency department nurses without specialized training in treating sexual violence victims and a focus group of five Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners. Data analysis took place with a constant comparative process to reveal the conceptual categories and themes. The focus group confirmed the categories.
Findings: Four themes emerged: Avoiding, Attempting, Analyzing, and Adjusting. The basic social process and substantive theory that emerged was Apprehending an Unknown Phenomenon. This framework provides an in-depth understanding of the decision making process of nurses caring for victims of sexual violence.
Conclusion: This study provided deeper understanding of nurses’ perceptions and experiences in decisions to treat patients who experienced sexual violence. The theory developed can be used to guide nurses’ decision making when they have little or no training on which to base their decisions. With further development of an evidence-based model, study findings should help improve outcomes for patients and reduce stress and anxiety in nurses who treat patients who have experienced traumatic sexual violence.