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Ordinary life may seem ‘trivial’ to military nurses returning from war zones

Military nurses returning from deployment overseas may go through a grieving process and experience ordinary life as ‘trivial’, suggests a United States study.

Nurse researcher Brenda Elliott, an adjunct online instructor at Drexel University in Philadelphia, conducted the qualitative study of ten military nurses who had all had at least one deployment in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Interviews were conducted between January and April 2012. Participants had been home for at least a year, and had no symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental health issues related to deployment.

Military nurses said it took several months to adjust to a ‘new normal’ after returning home from deployment

Picture credit: Alamy

Participants reported missing the structure and comradeship they had experienced during deployment, and many were angry at the ‘trivial’ concerns of civilian life. One nurse said she ‘hated’ going shopping: ‘You see what war’s like and you see what it does and then you stand in line and hear somebody complaining about the wait.’

Nurses reported feeling guilty at having been absent from their families, and guilt about their decreased emotional capacity when caring for patients who ‘do not know what true pain is’.

Serving their country and caring for badly wounded soldiers was the ‘epitome’ of their nursing career, an experience that had made them a different person with an altered worldview. They said it took several months of chaos to make the transition to a ‘new normal’.

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