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Self-Transcendence in Stem Cell Transplantation Recipients: A Phenomenologic Inquiry

Barbara J. Williams
ONF 2012, 39(1), E41-E48 DOI: 10.1188/12.ONF.E41-E48

Purpose/Objectives: To understand the meaning of self-transcendence, or the ability to go beyond the self, for patients who have had a stem cell transplantation.

Research Approach: A phenomenologic investigation guided by the interpretive philosophy of Heidegger.

Setting: A cancer center in a major urban academic medical center.

Participants: 4 men and 4 women ages 45-63 who had received a stem cell transplantation in the previous year.

Methodologic Approach: Two or three unstructured, open-ended interviews were conducted with each participant. Data were extracted, analyzed, and interpreted according to the Colaizzi method.

Main Research Variables: Self-transcendence.

Findings: Self-transcendence emerged as a process that was triggered by the suffering the participants experienced as they lived through the physical effects of the treatment, faced death, drew strength from within themselves, and perceived a spiritually influenced turning point. The experience of a human connection lessened their feelings of vulnerability in the process. As the participants recovered, they described being transformed both physically and personally.

Conclusions: The findings from this study highlight the power inherent in patients to not only meet the challenges they face, but to grow from their experiences. The findings also highlight patients' deep need for a human connection and the power that nurses and other healthcare professionals have to provide that connection.

Interpretation: The caring connections established by health-care professionals can ease the ability of patients to access the inner resource of self-transcendence and reduce their feelings of vulnerability.

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