Management of chronic illness: voices of rural women


  • Therese Sullivan PhD RN,

  • Clarann Weinert SC PhD RN FAAN,

  • Shirley Cudney MA RN GNP

Clarann Weinert, College of Nursing, Montana State University-Bozeman, Bozeman, MT 59717, USA.


Background.  The prevalence and cost of chronic illness globally and in the United States of America continue to escalate and the day-to-day management of these conditions presents a major challenge. The burden of chronic illness disproportionately affects vulnerable populations such as women and those living in rural areas.

Aim.  To add to the knowledge base of illness management by chronically ill rural women through examining their individual perceptions of the illness experience.

Method.  The Women to Women project provided a nursing research-based computer intervention model for conducting support groups, providing health education, and fostering self-care, via personal computers and evaluated its effect on the women's psychosocial health.

Findings.  Fatigue and pain were the major physical symptoms that impacted the women's quality of life, with depression and stress being the primary emotions they experienced. The characteristics of humour, hope, and courage were key in their successful adaptation to living with chronic illness.

Conclusions.  The women's voices relate how they manage their illness responses and adaptation mechanisms. The data provide nurses with information to heighten their sensitivity to clients’ day-to-day needs and experiences. It will assist them in their designing and planning of interventions that will enable clients to adapt and to have the best quality of life possible within the limitations of their chronic illnesses. The data are also important to nurses involved in rural research and theory development concerning self-management and adaptation to chronic illnesses.