A life changing experience - a rural perspective on living with physical disability

PhD Thesis

van Erp, Ansmarie. 2002. A life changing experience - a rural perspective on living with physical disability . PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland.

A life changing experience - a rural perspective on living with physical disability

TypePhD Thesis
Authorvan Erp, Ansmarie
SupervisorHegney, Desley
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages325

The topic of disability permeates medical literature. Yet, while disability as a medical condition is a focus of research and discussion, this research and discussion occurs often in neglectful ignorance of the total life experience of the individual person. This research is grounded in interpretive phenomenology. The philosophical grounding for the study draws on the works of Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty. The methodological structure of the research used van Manen’s (1990) hermeneutic phenomenology to guide a deeper understanding of the human experiences surrounding physical disability. Nine men and women living in different rural communities participated in a series of audiotaped, in-depth, unstructured interviews. The study suggests that living with disability encompasses a complex multidimensional phenomenon to be found within the context of a person’s life. Defined by physical and social barriers, living with disability denotes an interaction between impairment, activity limitation, and restricted participation. Four themes emerged that explicate the experience: (1) The Everyday Life of the Body; (2) Valuing a Rural Life; (3) Relationships in Life; and (4) Relating Time to Life. Disability was understood as a life-changing experience that entails complex time-consuming and energy-depleting processes and is defined by personal, family and social development. For the participants in this study, the lived experience of disability can be characterised by the expression: “life is not the same”. The understanding of the essential nature of this lived experience that emerged from this study has implications for health practice. The practice of disability intervention, based solely on impairment, may be inadequate to facilitate optimal health outcomes for rural people. Instead, physiotherapists can assist these people in discernment of priorities, maintaining existing relationships, advocation of rights, and finding the balance to encounter physical and societal adversity. Thus, the study suggests that health professionals need a broad conceptualisation of what constitutes legitimate knowledge for practice and a recognition that disability is an ongoing journey rather than a final destination.

Keywordsrural, physical disability, van Manen's hermeneutic phenomenology, nursing, health
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020420599. Nursing not elsewhere classified
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