Resilience among Japanese Atomic Bomb Survivors

Tuesday, 13 July 2010: 8:30 AM

Amy L. Knowles, PhD, RN, MPH
School of Nursing, King College, Bristol, TN

Learning Objective 1: describe the factor of resilience and how it influenced the survivor's coping capabilities following the atomic bomb event.

Learning Objective 2: identify key strategies to incorporate into disaster preparedness efforts.

Purpose: Never has the world experienced such extreme desecration as with the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945. This magnitude of destruction serves as the foundation for this disaster research. Although significant quantitative research has been completed about medical effects following radiation, the literature lacks qualitative exploration from a holistic health perspective. The purpose of this study was to explore the experience of atomic bomb survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Methods: From ethnographic data and interviews with eight survivors who currently reside in the United States, a thematic structure was developed that depicts the essential elements of the atomic bomb experience. The narratives were explicated using Leininger's Culture Care Diversity and Universality Theory. Results: The thematic structure includes the literal destruction of the bombing, which resulted in complete desecration of the environment (including the physical health, psychological health and response effort). Individual's perspectives of the atomic bomb experience were circumscribed within the Japanese cultural context. Two ways of being in the world followed the bombing: surviving and thriving, with resilience serving as a lever, allowing for fluid movement over time across the continuum. Individuals experiencing surviving exhibited anxiety about their personal and family members' health, expressed mistrust, and felt a stigma associated with being a survivor. For those who were thriving, peace activism, overcoming and forgiveness were typically displayed. Keen sensory perceptions were universal across all participants and extreme measures of care were frequently discussed. Conclusion: Findings from this study add to disaster nursing literature and support the need to include disaster nursing in all levels of nursing education, emphasize the necessity of long-term psychosocial support following disasters, and discuss key public health messages.