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J Adv Nurs. 2004 May;46(3):253-61.

The postmodern heart: war veterans' experiences of invasive cardiac technology.

Author information

1
Faculty of Nursing and Health, Griffith University, Nathan, Queensland, Australia. c.anderson@griffith.edu.au

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

The consequences of war and medical discourse have historical connections to pacemaker technology. Understanding these consequences is important because war veterans, medicine and cardiac technology have a shared history that continues into the present. The incidence of Australian war veterans needing cardiac pacemakers has increased many-fold in recent years, due to advancing age. This need was recognized by the Australian Department of Veteran Affairs and a cardiac programme was established in the veteran hospital that was the setting for this study.

AIM:

This paper reports on a study aimed at capturing the interest and sensitizing the practice of nurses involved in the care of war veterans and other health care consumers who have been diagnosed as requiring a cardiac pacemaker. The study sought to answer the question, 'How does the war veteran experience his body in relation to invasive cardiac technology?'.

METHOD:

The research was guided by the principles of interpretive interactionism, and used unstructured interviews with eight male war veterans. The data were collected in 2000.

FINDINGS:

Thematic and content analysis revealed five themes: emotional knowing; the medical encounter; belief in the myth of miracle; technological constraint; and the altered heart. The findings indicated that the human dimension was characterized by experiences of ambivalence, inner conflict, powerlessness and suffering.

CONCLUSION:

Nursing is at the interface of science and patient care, and this study contributes to nursing knowledge by focusing on a previously unresearched topic, namely embodied interactions between war veterans and invasive cardiac pacemakers. Within a highly technical area such as cardiology, nurses can still work around the technology and keep patients as their primary focus, thus promoting quality care. A humanistic rather than a technological focus locates nurses between patients and cardiac technology. In this in-between location, nurses are not an extension of cardiac technology but a valuable source of information, education, and counselling.

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