Developing an intervention to equip nurses for acute life threatening events (ALTEs) in hospital: a phenomenological approach to healthcare research

Adrienne P. Hudson, Heather P. Duncan, Helen M. Pattison, Rachel L. Shaw*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: To understand staff's experiences of acute life threatening events (ALTEs) in a pediatric hospital setting. These data will inform an intervention to equip nurses with clinical and emotional skills for dealing with ALTEs. Method: A mixed design was used in the broader research program; this paper focuses on phenomenon-focused interviews analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). Results: Emerging themes included staff's relationships with patients and the impact of personhood on their ability to perform competently in an emergency. More experienced nurses described "automatic" competence generated through increased exposure to ALTEs and were able to recognize "fumbling and shaking" as a normal stress response. Designating a role was significant to staff experience of effectiveness. Key to nurses' learning experience was reflection and identifying experiences as "teachable moments." Findings were considered alongside existing theories of self-efficacy, reflective thought, and advocacy inquiry to create an experiential learning intervention involving a series of clinical and role-related scenarios. Conclusion: The phenomenological work facilitated an in-depth reading of experience. It accentuated the importance of exposure to ALTEs giving nurses experiential knowledge to prepare them for the impact of these events. Challenges included bracketing the personhood of child patients, shifting focus to clinical tasks during the pressured demands of managing an ALTE, normalizing the physiological stress response, and the need for a forum and structure for reflection and learning. An intervention will be designed to provide experiential learning and encourage nurses to realize and benefit from their embodied knowledge.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)361-370
Number of pages10
JournalHealth Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015

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  • acute life threatening event (ALTE)
  • health care intervention
  • pediatric
  • reflection
  • simulation


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