Date of Award

Spring 2-24-2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Myra Carmon, EdD, RN, CPNP

Second Advisor

Ptlene Minick, PhD, RN

Third Advisor

Karen Gieseker, PhD


The population of medically fragile adolescents has grown in recent decades because of the sequelae of prematurity, injuries, and chronic or terminal illnesses. Medically fragile adolescents who require respiratory assistance are part of this unique population with challenges in their daily lives, yet as nurses, we know little about their experiences and the best approaches to use in caring for them. The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of medically fragile adolescents who require respiratory assistance.

Interpretive phenomenology was used to describe and interpret the experience of 11 medically fragile adolescents who required respiratory assistance. The adolescents ranged in age from 13 to 18 years of age and required respiratory assistances of tracheostomies, ventilator support, and Bi-level positive airway pressure (BiPap). Audiotaped semi-structured interviews were conducted with the adolescents. Data analysis was completed using the steps delineated by Diekelmann and Allen (1989). Six themes and one pattern were identified from the interviews with the adolescents. The major themes were “Get to know me”, “Allow me to be myself”, “Being there for me”, “No matter what, technology helps”, “I am an independent person”, and “The only one I know of”.

This study explored medically fragile adolescents who required a specific technology, respiratory assistance, within a distinct developmental stage. These adolescents have a clear view of who they are as a person. They want nurses to view them as a person, not just a patient. The adolescents felt that friends were there for them when they needed support. This was in contrast to those that they did not consider friends who were judgmental. Technology had meanings that encompassed enhanced daily living and existing as a part of their day, not their whole day. The adolescents viewed themselves as an independent person and were actively engaging in activities and strategies to achieve their goals of independence. This study contributes to nursing knowledge by helping nurses to understand what these adolescents experience in their daily lives and aiding nurses in providing better care for these adolescents. Recommendations for nursing practice, education, and research were identified in this study.


Included in

Nursing Commons