Listening to Patients: A Phenomenological Approach to Nursing Research and Practice

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Named an Outstanding Academic Title for 2002 by Choice!

Thomas and Pollio, authors of numerous publications, have written a must-read book for nurses and other health care providers who want to understand and engage in the human experiences of patients. The authors provide wonderful insights for students, researchers, and clinicians into the world of existential phenomenology and share, through the use of this research methodological approach, the personal stories of patients as they lived their experiences. As thought-provoking as the research examples are, the chapters explaining philosophy and methods of existential phenomenology are essential reading for all nursing students...Thomas and Pollio write clearly and simply without the usual academic jargon, a welcome change for college students, clinicians, and researchers alike. This book fills a void in the nursing research literature and will be welcome to nursing researchers, practitioners, and lower-division undergraduates through graduate students.


This book fills not only a gap but a wide cavern....I can not think of a better way for neophyte nurses to engage the human experiences and perspectives of their patients, nor can I think of a more relevant and comprehensive explanation of the philosophy and methods of existential phenomenology for seasoned researchers, scientists, and theoreticians.—Jacquelyn H. Flaskerud, PhD, RN, FAAN, UCLA School of Nursing

While addressing a wide readership, this book focuses particularly on the nurse clinician and student, demonstrating how a humanistic philosophy and research methodology has the potential to illuminate the deeper meanings of health crises and universal human experiences like pain and spiritual distress.

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Editorial Reviews

From The Critics
Reviewer: Diane M Tomasic, EdD, RN(Slippery Rock University )
Description: This book provides an explanation of existential philosophy and phenomological methods. This book is unique in its philosphical basis of Merleau-Ponty and its thorough coverage of the major existential grounds as described by existential phenomenological thought.
Purpose: The purpose is to provide the reader with the opportunity to experience vicariously the lived experiences of patients and make meaning of them within the context of nursing practice. The authors do a fine job in meeting this purpose.
Audience: The target audience for this book is graduate nursing students and faculty who are interested in existential phenomenological thought and research methodology. The authors are directly involved in phenomenologic research so the level of expertise is high.
Features: The book consists of five major sections. The first section introduces the reader to existential philosophy and phenomenolgical approach and its relevance to nursing practice. The second section examines philosophy, theory, and research about the body. The third section explores the human experience of other people. The fourth and fifth sections address topics of time and work respectively. The first chapter of each section provides the basis for the remaining chapters in the section. The remaining chapters in sections two to five are original qualitative research studies.
Assessment: This book would be quite useful as a reference for the graduate student planning to conduct phenomenological research.
From The Critics
This text introduces students and clinicians to phenomenology and applies insights from philosophy to the process of engaging in and interpreting dialogue with patients. A sampling of topics includes the experience of living with a diabetic sibling, wresting meaning from a time of spiritual distress, and living with chronic pain. Thomas teaches nursing and Pollio teaches psychology at the U. of Tennessee in Knoxville. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

4 Stars! from Doody
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826114679
  • Publisher: Springer Publishing Company, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/5/2000
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 312
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Sandra P. Thomas, PhD, RN, FAAN, is Professor and Director of the PhD Program in Nursing at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Her initial nursing preparation was at St. Mary's Hospital School of Nursing, and she worked as a hospital staff nurse for 10 years before pursing new challenges as a nurse educator and researcher. She holds bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in education as well as a master's in nursing, with clinical specialization in community mental health. Dr. Thomas is editor of Issues in Mental Health Nursing, and serves as a reviewer for many other professional journals. She serves on the Board of Directors of the International Council on Women's Health Issues. She is a charter member of the Southern Nursing Research Society and also holds memberships in the American Psychological Association, the American Nurses Association, Sigma Theta Tau International, and the Society of Behavioral Medicine. In 1996 she was named a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing, and in 1999 she became a Fellow of the Society of Behavioral Medicine. Her research has focused on stress, anger and depression. She has presented her research at numerous national and international conferences and published over 90 journal articles and book chapters. Her previous books are Women and Anger (Springer Publishing, 1993); Use Your Anger: A Woman's Guide to Empowerment, with coauthor Cheryl Jefferson (1996); Transforming Nurse' Anger and Pain (Springer, 1998); and Listening to Patients: A Phenomenological Approach to Nursing Research and Practice, with coauthor Howard R. Pollio (Springer, 2002). Listening to Patients received both a Choice Magazine Award as an "Outstanding Academic Title" and an American Journal of Nursing "Book of the Year" Award.

Howard R. Pollio, PhD, is Alumni Professor of Psychology at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

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Table of Contents



I. Phenomenology and Nursing
• The Patient, the Nurse, and the Philosopher: Seeing Rose Through the Eyes of Merleau-Ponty
• If a Lion Could Talk: Phenomenological Interviewing and Interpretation

II. Nursing and the Human Experience of the Human Body
• The Human Experience of the Human Body
• "It's Like Getting Kicked by a Mule": Living With an Implanted Defibrillator
• "Now It's Me and This Pain": Living With Chronic Pain

III. Nursing and the Human Experience of Other People
• The Human Experience of the World of Others
• "We All Became Diabetics": The Experience of Living With a Diabetic Sibling
• "Walking in the Dark": The Experience of Living With a Daughter Who Has an Eating Disorder
• "She Became an Alien": The Father's Experience of Living with Postpartum Depression

IV. Nursing and the Human Experience of Time
• The Human Experience of Time
• "One Day You're Working and the Next Day You're an Invalid": Recovering After a Stroke
• "The Point of No Return": Formerly Abused Women's Experience of Staying Out of the Abusive Relationship
• "It Was the Dark Night of the Soul": Wresting Meaning From a Time of Spiritual Distress

V. Nursing and the Human Experience of the World
• The Human Experience of the non-Human World
• "Eventually It'll Be Over": The Dialectic Between Confinement and Freedom in the World of the Hospitalized Patient
• "Like a Bunch of Cattle": The Patient's Experience of the Outpatient Health Care Environment




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