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J Adv Nurs. 2002 Jan;37(1):108-14.

Starry night: using story to inform aesthetic knowing in women's health nursing.

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University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.



This paper describes the use of story as a vehicle to inform aesthetic knowing in nursing. Because health care demands that nurses know two distinct languages, the language of nursing science with its quantifiable outcomes as well as the experiential observations of health and illness, it is critical that nurses be fluent in each discourse.


Nursing scholars have long voiced a commitment to two epistemological domains: scientifically derived knowledge (empirics) as well as the expressive, creative, intuitive application of knowledge (aesthetics). In recognition of the need for these interpretive paradigms for practice, nursing scholars have sought to identify the kinds of knowing which provide the nursing discipline with its unique perspective.


Stories mould every human encounter and telling one's story in the context of a trusting relationship allows women and nurses to journey together to uncover and discover the meanings inherent in the story. Through this mutual process of unfolding the story, nurses engage the women in deep reflection and focus on what 'might be' so that possibilities for the future are illuminated. This is important in all nursing, but particularly in women's health nursing because the emergence of story suggests that contextual, phenomena-centred knowledge has found its voice in the nursing care of women as a way of knowing that focuses on personal experience and relies on methods in which woman-to-woman caring facilitates the disclosure of the human health-illness experience.


Storytelling is a useful strategy to inform aesthetic knowing in nursing. Stories supply a foundation for nursing scholarship because truly to hear women's stories require nurses analyse information, formulate hypotheses, and seek to understand the causal relationships as expressed by women. Through this analysis and attention to detail, nurses are able to glimpse possibilities for the future, thus transforming the experience.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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