2018 Volume 5 Issue 1 Pages 48-57
Aim: Post-traumatic growth suggests that experiencing difficult situations can lead to growth if meaning is given to the experience. Public health nurses who experienced the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 through their health activities reflected on that event, and our study investigated how they negotiated feelings of conflict and suffering and made sense or meaning of their work during this disaster.
Methods: Narrative interviews with seven public health nurses who experienced the earthquake and who provided health activities for more than 1 year afterwards were conducted. Post-traumatic growth was defined as giving meaning to their experiences and finding new ways of thinking. Data for each case were categorized by similarities, and themes were named for each case; data from all cases were then integrated.
Results: Three broad concepts emerged with 13 sub-themes: ‘self-understanding’ (three sub-themes; e.g., ‘positive self-perception’ and ‘acceptance of emotions such as pain and loss’), ‘ways of thinking about relationships with others’ (six sub-themes; e.g., ‘feeling of solidarity with colleagues’ and ‘trust in related organizations’), and ‘beliefs and values about public health nurses as an occupation’ (four sub-themes; e.g., ‘having a long-term responsibility to the community’ and ‘need for a sense of mission and resolution to protect residents’ lives and health’).
Conclusions: Public health nurses’ giving meaning through reflection enabled them to understand their actions and responses to circumstances beyond their control during their service after the earthquake. In post-disaster health care, reflecting on how nurses responded in disaster situations may be valuable to both personal and professional growth.