Wednesday, October 01, 2008

What is reality?

Enter into my world for a second. The world of nursing.

Nurses are weird. We are jacks of all trades and masters of none (usually). We like gross topics. We can hold a sandwich in one hand and a bowl to catch some one's vomit in another. We typically like people, though we see the best and the worst of them. We work in an endless myriad of clinical and academic places doing an endless number of things: community health, hospitals, nursing homes, education, clinics, legislation, etc.

And then there are nurse researchers.

This takes weirdness to a whole new level. I don't think other researchers are quite like nurses. Here we are, trained in a very practical, tangible field of clinical things, yet we approach them with a highly philosophical, holistic worldview. This is one of the main differences between the medical model and the nursing model. For example, the medical model will look at a disease progression and try to figure out how to fix it physically at the cellular level. The nursing model will look at the disease progression, try to get in the person and see how they and everyone around them reacts to it, and still try to fix it, but in more ways than physically. No wonder nurses are so stressed and overworked many times.

But I digress. Nurse researchers: odd people. A nurse researcher would ask: "What is green? How do you know what green is? What if green is different for you than for me? What causes green? What does green lead to? What are the attributes of green?" Get my point?

This is on my mind because in grad school I am currently enrolled in Theoretical Foundations and Research for Nursing. It is the beginning of my thesis project (i.e. a several hundred page document about one very, very specific topic). Here we dissect everything. To the most minute detail. I am just starting to learn this process and am only a couple of weeks in, and already my office is a mess, with dozens of papers, notes, and highlighted articles staring at me in distress yelling, "GET ORGANIZED!" There is a small rain forest in the Amazon now gone because of all the paper I am having to use.

The way the thesis process works at my school is a little different than most, and is much to my benefit. Our professors already have areas of interest, and they already have databases full of information waiting to be analyzed. So, I will not conduct my own study like many schools do (praise the Lord!). I get to work with a group to determine new relationships between the already-gathered information and publish on that. So it is a thesis, streamlined.

Not to say that this is not a huge project. It will take over a year, but my partners and I are super-motivated to get done asap, so hopefully by this time next year we will be defending our thesis, and our thesis board will say with gusto, "You are fully prepared to be an advanced practice nurse, ready to change the world!" My chosen thesis area deals with recurrent ovarian cancer and couples. It is looking like the focus will be relationship quality and communication between these couples, and how these are affected by a certain variable (yet to be determined-probably length of relationship, number of recurrences, or religious participation). Specific enough for you?

So for now, my first assignment is to start to get a hold on these concepts. In particular, what is communication? How do I know it when I see it? What leads to it, and what does it lead to? But before I can really do that, I have to examine these research articles to see if they are of any quality and usable. Do they have an appropriate design? What about their assumptions of the concepts? Why did they choose the participants they did and is that appropriate? How do I know I got all the good articles, considering there are 6,000 new nursing journal articles published every day? And what worldview am I working from anyway? How do I see man? What is health?

You didn't know nurses were philosophers, did you?

I say all this not to bore you, but to let you know what my thinking is like now and to explain why I may be out of touch from time to time. Feel free to remind me why I am in grad school because I may forget.

And don't stay up at night trying to fully understand green. Leave that to a nurse.


Polly Blanshan said...

That's what I'm not a nurse... =D
'Cause I used to like the color green.

Meredith said...

I love, love, love this blog! I can't wait to discuss it ALL with you in just a short 6 weeks... maybe... hopefully!

Meredith said...
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oncology rn said...

I really like the variable involving religious participation. That variable is stellar material--I witness it come into play at least three shifts per week!

Em said...

Hang in there! :)