“Fighting the Urge to Fight Back: Military Nurse's Care Dilemmas During Deployment”

Sunday, 17 November 2013: 11:20 AM

Beth A Mastel-Smith, BSN, MS, PhD
College of Nursing, The University of Texas at Tyler, Tyler, TX

Learning Objective 1: discuss military nurses’ interactions with insurgent patients; nurses’ preparation for, responses to, and meanings of insurgent care; ethical issues faced, and coping methods employed.

Learning Objective 2: identify effects of combat and insurgent care on military nurses including mental, emotional, personal, professional, and positive effects.

Thousands of military nurses have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.  The purpose of this descriptive phenomenological study was to elicit nurses’ experiences and effects of caring for enemy detainees during deployment.  Institutional Review Board approval was obtained, and participants provided signed informed consent.

Recruitment via word of mouth and snowball sampling continued until data saturation occurred. The sample consisted of seven women and three men. The average age was 43; eight participants were White, one was Hispanic, and one African-American. Six were Air Force and four were Army personnel.  Telephone or Skype interviews were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim, and verified by the researcher. Colaizzi’s seven step process guided data analysis with credibility achieved via bracketing, field notes, multiple coders, and member checks. 

Two themes, caring for insurgent patients and effects of combat nursing and insurgent care, emerged.  Subthemes related to caring for insurgent patients included training to care for insurgents, identification of and interactions with insurgent patients, precautions taken, ethical issues, thoughts and feelings about insurgent patients, coping with realities of war, and meaning of insurgent care.  Subthemes related to effects of combat and insurgent care included mental, emotional, personal, professional, and positive effects. 

Nurses and students must be prepared to provide patient care to societal enemies and undesirable patients. Military nurse insights are advisory to preparation for and provision of this care.  Post-deployment, military nurses require support and accessible services without fear of reprisal.

Future research might explore ethical dilemmas related to care of undesirable patients and the impact on patient care, nurses’ health, and professional practice.  Investigation of nurse-patient relationships in non-traditional care settings might provide insight into a new definition of care, improve care delivery, and affirm nurses’ experiences and responses.  Understanding self-care during deployment and efficacy of identified practices would help future deployed nurses.