Meaning, identity and wellness : the experience of living and working in Australian nursing homes.
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This exploratory study has two major aims. The first is to investigate heuristically the sources and nature of meaning experienced by residents and staff living and working in an Australian nursing home. The second is to interpret those experiences within the context of wellness.The study utilises heuristic inquiry as the research method from an occupational science perspective. Occupational science is concerned with the ways in which humans realise their sense of meaning through both their daily occupations and their unique way of being in the world.Heuristic inquiry is utilised for both the research design and the analysis of data. The primary source of data was my own experience of working in Australian nursing homes as a nurse, educator, and grief counsellor; and of having supported the six members of my family who have lived and died in Australian nursing homes. In addition multiple other sources of data were accessed: residents and staff from three suburban Australian nursing homes; personal and professional memoirs of life and work in Australian nursing homes; novels depicting characters faced with nursing home life; and research report on the needs of elderly Aboriginal people also faced with nursing home admission.Data were collected using a diverse range of techniques: self dialogue, participant-observation, informal, semi-structured, and group interviews, analysis of staff journal entries, and analysis of the textual material - memoirs, novels, and the research report.The findings indicate that nursing home residents experience a sense of meaning when they are able to maintain a sense of connection with an enduring sense of self. Nursing home staff, on the other hand, experience a sense of meaning in association with their work when they are able to access their personally constructed vision of a professional self identity. Living and working with a sense of wellness, whilst possible, tends not to be an everyday experience for either residents or staff.This study makes an important contribution to the understanding of the interior experiences of both nursing home residents and staff. It explores the notion of wellness within the nursing home context and puts forward suggestions for promoting wellness in the nursing home. The study also makes a significant contribution to the discipline of occupational science and the application of heuristic inquiry to social research.
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