Being different: A phenomenological exploration of a group of veteran psychiatric nurses


  • Felicity Humble, RN, RPN, DipAppSc (Adv Psy Nsg), BN, MNSt.

  • Wendy Cross, RN, RPN, BAppSc (Adv Nsg), MEd, PhD, FRCNA, FACMHN.

Wendy Cross, Head, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Monash University, Clayton, Vic. 3800, Australia. Email:


Concern regarding the low numbers of graduate nurses expressing interest in entering the psychiatric field leads to the question: who would be a psychiatric nurse? In this interpretative, phenomenological study, the lived experiences of seven veteran psychiatric nurses were examined in order to gain understanding of the reasons why they had remained in the field of psychiatric nursing. Each of these participants had more than 10 years' clinical practice in psychiatric nursing and shared a wide range of thoughts, memories, and experiences. The major emergent theme, ‘being different’, revealed what it is like for the participants being psychiatric nurses. These participants felt and saw themselves as different in many ways from other nurses and from society in general. Related to and an aspect of that difference was the high level of satisfaction they achieved from their role and the striving to achieve harmony.