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The Personal and Professional: Nurses' Lived Experiences of Adoption

Foli, Karen J. PhD, RN; Schweitzer, Roberta PhD, RN; Wells, Courtenay MS, FNP

MCN, The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing: March/April 2013 - Volume 38 - Issue 2 - p 79–86
doi: 10.1097/NMC.0b013e3182763446
Feature: CE Connection

Background: Nurses provide healthcare services to members of the adoption triad (AT; birth parents, adoptive parents, and the child) in a number of settings. However, nurses' perceptions of and interactions with members of the AT have not been investigated.

Purpose: This study describes the lived experiences of nurses and the care rendered to the AT using a descriptive phenomenological approach.

Method: In response to an invitation published in a national electronic newsletter, nurses were asked to submit narratives about their experiences in caring for members of the AT. Researchers coded 17 narratives using Colaizzi's phenomenological method.

Results: Four themes emerged from the texts: (1) Where the personal and professional selves meet (“I see so many issues from both sides”); (2) The paradox of adoption (“ emotional rollercoaster”); (3) Unique contexts of adoptive families (“We all have a story”); and (4) Reframing nurses' perceptions surrounding adoption (“There are several areas we could improve”).

Clinical Implications: Nurses often have a personal connection to adoption and this potentiates the care delivered to AT members. Serving as role models for their peers and advocates for a better understanding of the dynamics of relinquishment and placement, nurses can improve clinical practices for these patients.

Conclusions: Themes reflected insights gained from both personal and professional roles and offer specific interventions that enhance care of the AT. Nursing education and practice guidelines should include care rendered to the AT.

Nurses share their experiences with adoption as caregivers, adoptive parents and birth parents.

Karen J. Foli is an Assistant Professor at Purdue University School of Nursing, West Lafayette, IN. She can be reached via e-mail at

Roberta Schweitzer is an Assistant Professor at Purdue University School of Nursing, West Lafayette, IN.

Courtenay Wells is a Clinical Assistant Professor at Purdue University School of Nursing, West Lafayette, IN.

The authors and planners have disclosed that they have no financial relationships related to this article.

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© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.