The Lived Experience of Chief Nurses in
Military Operations Other Than War

The True Military: Performing Live Theatre

A qualitative research study
by Col Martha Turner, USAF NC, Ph.D.





This is a study combining qualitative research and military nursing. It is based on recorded interviews and includes more than 480 quotations, identification of themes, discussion of the findings, recommendations in several areas, and many references related to qualitative research and military nursing.

The analysis and experiences of this study can benefit those who study or research military nursing, plan deployments, conduct deployment training, or may be deployed into similar circumstances.

Abstract of the study

This qualitative study captures the experiences of U.S. Air Force nurses who served as chief nurses in military medical units deployed outside the United States in support of humanitarian, peacekeeping, disaster relief and similar operations.

There were 13 study participants, eleven women and two men. Duration of the deployments ranged from 3 to 7 months. Sites included Saudi Arabia, Oman, Panama, Cuba, Somalia, Guam, Croatia, England and Turkey.

A qualitative, philosophical research approach, hermeneutic phenomenology, was used to provide a description and thematic interpretation of the experience.

The participants were interviewed, based on open ended questions, and the interviews recorded and transcribed. Significant statements were identified, analyzed, organized and reexamined for an understanding of the experience.

Within the study are 484 significant statements made by the chief nurses. These statements describe specific, real life experiences during the deployments. They are the basis of the analysis and document the clusters, themes, and structure of the experience. These organized statements are the lived experience of the chief nurses.

Organization of the statements evolved into 60 groups of related statements, termed interpretive clusters, and then into 10 themes. Five themes represent the fundamental structure of the experience, the deployment trajectory:

  • preparing, arriving, living, working, and leaving (28 clusters),

and five themes, the essential themes, represent the essences of administrative nursing and military duty,

  • paradoxes, leading, caring, knowing and the true military (32 clusters).

The study includes a comprehensive description of the experience, structured around Van Manen's themes of lived space, lived body, lived other and lived time, with related statements from the chief nurses. There are also discussions of the findings, implications in several areas and recommendations.

This phenomenological study revealed the challenges of leadership and tremendous pride in getting the job done. These nurses were proud of their participation in an experience where they were able to identify and respond to the challenges they encountered as nurse leaders.

*** View excerpts from the study and/or download the complete study below.


Significant statements from the fundamental structure of the experience.

Significant statements from the essential themes.

The comprehensive description theme of lived other.


Table of contents (pdf, 53k)

Complete study (pdf, 695k, fully indexed):


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