Date of Award

Fall 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Gibson, Kevin

Second Advisor

Feldner, Sarah

Third Advisor

Wolburg, Joyne

Fourth Advisor

Dallahan, Margaret

Fifth Advisor

Janisse, Tom


Purpose. Narrative medicine is an innovative field that has provided meaning and increased communication between health care providers and their patients. This study explored the significance and nature of the practice of Narrative Medicine and what impact this had with NICU nurses on their team interaction with respect to team functioning, sense-making, and vocational understanding. This study seeks to provide nursing teams another tool to find meaning in their work and strengthen their teamwork. Using Narrative Medicine and the theory of phenomenology, this is a new approach that may bring nurses to draw on fresh ways to engage their work and each other. This has the possibility to demonstrate how the work of Narrative Medicine creates clarity and lucidity for nurses. This study asks the question of how meaning is constructed discursively in the practice of nursing. Method. In this study, 11 NICU nurses participated in the practices of narrative medicine. This included 3 group sessions, one individual interview, and observation of each participant for 3-5 hours. Participants examined and discussed the ways they viewed their work in terms of functioning, sense-making, and vocation. Field notes were read by myself and coded for emergent themes in the phenomenological theory tradition. Results. Patterns of communication and teamwork were complex and nuanced. Participants reported building stronger relationships as they grew more aware of each other’s stories and had the opportunity to reflect on their work among their coworkers. This led to an intensified individual and team understanding of their roles as healthcare professionals. Participants responded in the group, individual, and observation time about how this process positively contributed to their individual and shared identity, value, and meaning as a nurse. Conclusions. Conversations in the Narrative Medicine exercises, individual and observational time demonstrated how the influence of these practices assisted to remove barriers so that relationships were enhanced. This positively contributed to team practices of asking for and offering help to other teammates, increased trust, team task functioning, sense-making, and increasing a sense of their “call” or vocation in the practice of nursing.