Journey Towards Recovery Following Physical Trauma

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School of Nursing Departmental Papers
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physical trauma; recovery; repercussions; survivorship; healing; content analysis
Medicine and Health Sciences
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Thompson, Hilaire Jane
Deatrick, Janet A
Kauder, Donald R

Convalescence and recovery following illness are of central importance to nursing. These themes have been explored increasingly in the literature. The focus, however, has been primarily on the process of integrating chronic illness into one’s life. Recovery from physical injury is rarely addressed. A body of work focusing on physical trauma demonstrates that recovery is often not complete after injuries that have not been viewed as disabling. To illuminate understanding of recovery following physical trauma, the purpose of our 1997 study was to describe more thoroughly the nature of recovery. A total of 63 adults, in a convenience sample, who survived serious physical trauma, were interviewed 2·5 years after injury using an open-ended semistructured interview guide. Three themes were identified: event, fallout, and moving-on. These themes provided the organizing structure for exploring the journey to recovery. This journey, as disclosed by the seriously injured, does not necessarily correspond with the views of most trauma clinicians. Traumatic events create a line of demarcation, separating lives into before and after. The event becomes the starting point of a journey to resume one’s life. The event itself is more than the trauma; it is the perceptual and contextual experience that needs to be incorporated into a person’s essence. Fallout from the injury is multifaceted and includes physical, psychological, social, and spiritual dimensions. Moving-on in this journey is nonlinear as survivors recognize their lives are forever different. The survivors’ accounts suggest that nurses should carefully consider the question, ‘What is successful recovery?’

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Journal of Advanced Nursing
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