• bodily awareness;
  • burn injury;
  • experience;
  • nursing;
  • phenomenology;
  • quality of life;
  • rehabilitation


Aim.  This paper is a report of a study to describe the injured body of people who have survived a major burn and seeks to understand the essence of their lived experience.

Background.  The burden of a burn-injured body, including loss of function, altered appearance and psychological distress, can threaten return to preburn state of life and successful return to society.

Method.  Fourteen participants (three women and 11 men; mean age 46 years) who had survived a major burn were interviewed in 2005–2006 an average 14 months after injury. A Husserlian phenomenological approach was adopted.

Findings.  A new and demanding bodily awareness, disclosing both limitations and potentials, emerged as the essence of the burn survivors’ experience of their injured bodies. This was supported by a descriptive structure of the body as telling a new story, being unfamiliar to watch and sense, vulnerable and in need of protection, more present with a variety of nuisances, having brakes on and resisting habitual actions, as well as being insecure when distrusting own abilities. Participants typically experienced losing the familiarity of their bodies as anonymous and unconsciously at hand for all possible actions in everyday life. Significant others served as buffers, extensions of participants’ injured bodies, reducing obstacles and insecurity in all aspects of life.

Conclusion.  The lived experience of people who have sustained a burn injury should be recognized and valued by nurses in all phases of burn care. Nurses have an important role in facilitating the presence and involvement of family and friends in the recovery and rehabilitation of burn survivors.