The uncertain journey: women's experiences following a myocardial infarction

Nancy Doiron-Maillet, Donna Meagher-Stewart
Canadian Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing 2003, 13 (2): 14-23
Current literature indicates that women, and society in general, do not see coronary heart disease (CHD) as a serious concern for women. This lack of recognition seems, in part, to be related to a lack of research involving women as participants and in developing nursing knowledge specific to women and CHD. Although existing literature provides valuable insight into cardiac recovery, it does not clearly explore women's perceptions of their experiences in the early home convalescent recovery process following a myocardial infarction (MI). This study reports on the supportive-educative experiences of eight English speaking women, ages 33-61, in their early recovery process following an MI. Inductively generated data analysis has provided a means to understand the process of recovery from the perspective of these participants. Inherent in the participants' words, as they discussed their journeys with recovery, was an overwhelming sense of uncertainty while living with heart disease. For these women, their socially constructed knowledge dictated that women, and in particular, young women, did not experience heart attacks, and was, therefore, in conflict with their realities. The contradiction between the 'truths learned from others' and their MI experiences influenced, and was influenced by, the subsequent emerging themes of a 'rude awakening,' 'disconnected knowing,' and 'reconnecting self.' Feminist research challenges tradition and offers nursing an opportunity to explore and investigate issues of importance to our profession in a different way. Nurses, as well as other health care professionals, need to be aware of the social construction of cardiac illness and women's experiences, as this knowledge has great implications for patient care from prevention to rehabilitation within the cardiac experience. Based on the results of this study, implications for nursing education, research and practice are discussed.

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