Date of Award

Spring 4-7-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


School of Education

First Advisor

Suzanne Harrison, Ph.D.


The purpose of this dissertation is was to explore how older women perceived their interactions with nurses after receiving care in a hospital setting. Older women are a vulnerable population subject to being overlooked or misunderstood by the nurses caring for them, hence the importance of this study. To gather the data on older women’s lived world of nursing care, I used a phenomenological approach based on a hermeneutic framework that considers linguistic, historical, and social factors to interpret older women’s lived world of nursing care while hospitalized. I personally interviewed seven women between the ages of 66 and 81 after their hospitalizations, and then analyzed the data by means of a theoretical lens derived from critical feminism and adapted to gerontology. I discovered that what the participants found most meaningful was being cared for by nurses who embraced the primacy of caring in such a complete way as to be life giving for them. All seven valued the morally grounded feminine ideal of caring that was exemplified by some of their nurses. They experienced feelings of being in control and of being powerless while interacting with their nurses. When the participants felt in control, their interactions with their nurses were characterized by mutuality, respect, and balanced relational energy. When they felt powerless, their interactions were characterized by lack of voice and agency, and by an imbalanced relational energy. This feeling of powerlessness challenged their sense of personhood. Meaningful, direct interactions with their nurses helped the participants successfully negotiate their terms of care. However, all seven women found that they could not predict when these meaningful interactions would occur. The main implication of this study is the need for further research into 1) ways of increasing nurses’ awareness of what it means to be an older hospitalized woman, and 2) nursing education endeavors that target relational work of nurses with their older generation patients.