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Hemsley, PM 2003, 'Walking two worlds: transformational journals of nurse healers, a hermeneutic phenomenological investigation', PhD thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Copyright PM Hemsley 2003


This research investigated the transformative and extraordinary experiences of nurse healers. The broad aim of the research was to promote the role of the healer in nursing by providing data on the experiences specific to nurse healers’ evolution as healers.

The research was theoretically informed by van Manen (1990, 1984) and utilised hermeneutic phenomenology. Van Manen’s emphasis on writing as the key element of phenomenology in lived experience research was employed to bring forth a sense of lived immediacy and aesthetic colour essential to phenomenological understanding.

The thesis was also theoretically aligned with the conceptual model of nursing as a caring-healing profession, developed by Jean Watson (1999, 1990a, 1988, 1985a). In particular, this research drew on Watson’s explicit connection of nursing with healing and nursing practice with transformational, transpersonal and esoteric insights.

There were eleven nurse (nine women and two men) participants in the study. All participants identified strongly as healers. Selection was based on how long, and important to the individual was their commitment to being a healer. The data collection method used was semi structured interview with a predominant focus on storytelling.

The overarching theme of ‘Walking Two Worlds’ was identified, and within that five essential themes were uncovered: (1) Belonging & Connecting; (2) Opening to Spirit; (3) Summoning; (4) Wounding & Healing Journey; and (5) Living as a Healer.

Implications for nursing discussed include the need for the profession to provide support to nurse healers as they encounter challenging experiences and to allow for ontological flexibility regarding the esoteric aspects of human/spiritual experience revealed by this research. Further the need to extend the understanding invoked by healing beyond the obvious and opening vistas into experience which have been previously repudiated by domineering, narrow and spirit-denying powers in our society is also discussed.