Bearing witness to suffering: the lived experience of nursing students.

Abstract

This study explored the meanings of the lived experience of nursing students as they care for patients who are suffering. In this interpretive phenomenological study, 13 nursing students participated in conversational interviews and wrote narratives about their experiences of being with someone who was suffering. Embedded in the students' stories are the ways they came to understand suffering in the context of learning to practice nursing. The metatheme of bearing witness to suffering emerged from the analysis of the students' reflections. Bearing witness was exemplified with the subthemes of grappling with suffering, struggling with the ineffable, getting through, being with suffering patients, embodying the experience of suffering, and seeing possibilities in suffering. Bearing witness to suffering patients called students to an awareness of their own vulnerability. A concern for learning amid suffering was present throughout the students' texts. The call to care can be sustained through a pedagogy of suffering that acknowledges the need for support through a caring community.

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