In their own time

Elizabeth Ceona Moulton (1997)

This dissertation investigates the self-narratives of Emergency Department nurses experiencing stress in the course of their work with women who live in abusive relationships. The investigation is based on the assumption that when a women living in an abusive relationship seeks help at an Emergency Department, the transaction between the woman and the nurse creates a stressful situation for the nurse. The investigation is grounded in post-modern feminism and uses a qualitative methodology to explore how emergency department nurses' self-narratives reflect the conflicting storylines about battered women present in the culture and the medical setting. The study is situated within a larger context of increased awareness of the consequences and long term outcomes of male violence directed toward women. It attends to the cultural, historical, social and personal narratives of battered women and to the impact these narratives have on the environment in which the nurses work. Specifically, themes related to stress, feelings of frustration and hopelessness, methods of coping that may lead to development of new self-narratives, and vicarious traumatization are explored. Narratives in the form of responses to a semi-structured interview were solicited from eight emergency department nurses. The interview inquired into the nurses' beliefs about women, their history of victimization, and their relationships with men. It asked them to comment upon the ways battered women are treated in the Emergency Department and upon their personal experiences working with women in abusive relationships. Factors contributing to transactions that were nonthreatening and helpful for the woman requesting care included: a history of victimization, training in the area of domestic violence, and participation in the process of developing protocols for the treatment of abused women in the Emergency Department. When these factors were present, the nurses' self-narratives also included stories of women having more choices and sovereignty over their lives.