Living with traumatic spinal cord injury

Susan M Hunter, University of Rhode Island


The lengthening life span of individuals with a spinal cord injury (SCI) underscores the importance for expanding the focus of care to include living with a SCI in the community. In the literature, life for this individual has been characterized as an enduring process, including changes in views of self, disability, and life values. A major component of successful living has been seen as achieving a positive feeling of subjective well-being. However, the majority of research to date has been from only the perspective of the health care professional. The aim of this study was to better understand this experience and subjective well-being from the perspective and voice of the individual with a SCI from before injury, through recovery, to the present. ^ An inductive, descriptive, exploratory design was used and included a series of three audio taped in-depth interviews with four individuals living with a SCI in the community. The purposeful sample included four Caucasian males. Rubin and Rubin's (2005) model of qualitative interviewing and techniques from Seidman (2006) guided the study design and interviews. Strategies from Schatzman and Strauss' (1973) field research approach guided data collection and analysis. ^ All four conversational partners experienced living with their injuries through five phases including initial injury, the traditional phases of recovery (hospitalization, rehabilitation, return to home ), and life today. Views of self and life values had remained unchanged from prior to their injuries and relationships with family and friends emerged as the most significant life value. None of the participants used the term disability to describe themselves. ^ Subjective well-being was present for all of the conversational partners prior to their injuries and also existed throughout each of the phases. Distinct differences were noted between the perceptions of the participants (insider's perspective) and the health professionals (outsider's perspective). Implications for future research include: the advancement of this work with a larger, more diverse sample, the analysis of the concept of disability from a theoretical perspective, and a change in approach to care by health professionals with a shift towards focusing on the person first and the patient second. ^

Subject Area

Health Sciences, Nursing

Recommended Citation

Susan M Hunter, "Living with traumatic spinal cord injury" (2007). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI3276986.