Using metaphor method to interpret and understand meanings of international operating room nurses' experiences in organ procurement surgery

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Aims: To demonstrate how metaphor method can be employed in health care research, through a rainbow metaphor to conceptualise lived experiences, and represent a sense of verisimilitude, in a phenomenological study of international nurses' experiences of organ procurement procedures. Background: International operating room nurses are likely to form unique attitudes towards multi-organ procurement. Phenomenology is used to focus on discovering human experiences and the meanings of certain phenomena. Phenomenological writing can mediate people's reflections and actions, measure people's thoughtfulness and help people to see and show lived experiences from their lifeworlds. Design: Metaphor was used to interpret meanings of international operating room nurses' experiences in organ procurement surgery. The meanings were identified through a phenomenological approach informed by the work of van Manen. Methods: A metaphor method was used to interpret and understand the lived experiences of eighteen international OR nurses recruited from nine different countries. Thematic data analysis was used to portray their lived experiences in organ procurement procedure. Results: Using a rainbow as metaphor, a vivid picture was portrayed reflecting international OR nurses' experiences and organ procurement journey in Australia as challenging, with mixed feelings. According to the relationship between certain colours and emotions, four essential themes evolved into the concept of a four-colour rainbow to signify the meanings of international OR nurses' experiences in organ procurement procedures. The essential themes represented by these four colours were as follows: Orange—“The surreality of experiencing death,” Red—“Personal and professional challenges,” Green—“Becoming stronger” and Purple—“My beliefs, my wishes.”. Conclusion: Interpreting the meanings of their organ procurement experiences using metaphor method provided valuable insights about what personal and professional challenges these nurses faced, how they coped and managed their challenges, what support and care they required from others, and suggestions for future practice. Relevance to clinical practice: Operating room nurses in practice needed a range of workplace supports and the rainbow metaphor provides a suitable approach for reflection and understanding of their experiences in organ procurement, with a focus on international, newly graduated and less experienced nurses. Practice improvement is a likely outcome when nurses have a better understanding of their experiences and the experiences of others in their team and this will assist in identifying their knowledge and professional support needs. The method demonstrates how metaphor can be applied to understand clinical nursing situations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4604-4613
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Clinical Nursing
Issue number23-24
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • metaphor
  • operating room nursing
  • organ donation
  • phenomenology
  • qualitative approaches
  • research methods

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