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The number of patients admitted with infective endocarditis (IE) from intravenous drug use (IVDU) in Appalachia is increasing, a direct downstream effect of the opioid crisis. Extant literature highlights the pejorative attitudes health care workers have toward patients with substance use disorder, with nurses among the most punitive. Rather than describe attitudes, the purpose of this study was to describe the lived experiences of nurses caring for patients diagnosed with IE from IVDU in Appalachia. To describe an unexplored phenomenon in Appalachia to inform nursing practice, nursing education, and health policy. Qualitative phenomenological study using the University of Tennessee method based on the tenets of Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Nine nurses (ages 29-53 years) recruited using purposive and snowball sampling participated in unstructured phenomenological interviews. The essential meaning or central theme of the nurse experience working with these patients was a sense of hopelessness/hope, with four interrelated themes derived from the central theme: (1) guarding/escaping, (2) responsibility and revulsion, (3) apathy/empathy, and (4) grief and sorrow/cold and unemotional. Universally, nurses perceived caring for this population as futile, feeling a sense of powerlessness to change the outcome. These care experiences frustrated nurses, who described being physically and emotionally drained. To improve care delivery and improve patient outcomes, emphasis must be placed on nurse addiction education and standardizing nurse to patient with substance use disorder ratios to decrease work-related stress on nurses.


Kendrea L Todt, Sandra P Thomas. The Lived Experience of Nurses Caring for Patients Diagnosed With Intravenous Drug Use-Associated Infective Endocarditis in Appalachia: A Phenomenological Study. Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association. 2023 Sep-Oct;29(5):400-409

PMID: 34374324

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