Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Nursing

Dissertation Committee

Joseph F. Burkard, DNSc CRNA, RN, Chairperson; Jane M. Georges, PhD, RN, Committee Member; Judy L. Dye, PhD, ANP-BC, RN, Committee Member


Chronic Pain, Coping Strategies, Gender Bias, Military Women, Sexual Trauma



Purpose/Aims: This qualitative study was conducted to describe the lived experience of military women with chronic pain. This study aims to (a) explore a typical day with chronic pain and (b) examine meaning through the participant’s life experiences.

Background: Chronic pain, a persistent or recurrent pain lasting more than 3 months. It is a widespread problem among military servicemembers and veterans. Following deployment, 25% of military women are at risk for chronic pain. Returning from deployment, 44% experience chronic pain and 15% use opioids; in the general population, 26% experience chronic pain and 4% use opioids. Post-deployment stressors and combat-related injuries place military populations at risk for opioid addiction; military women are prescribed opioids for pain at a higher rate. Military women have documented risk factors associated with chronic pain including their gender, mental health, posted traumatic stress disorder [PTSD], and prior physical or military sexual trauma [MST]. There is a paucity of research on the daily lived experience of military women with chronic pain.

Methods: This study utilized the van Manen’s approach to investigate the lived experience. Approximately 13 adult participants were recruited including active duty, retired, and/or veteran women experiencing chronic pain. Semi-structured digitally recorded Zoom interviews and demographic data information were compiled. Sample size was adjusted to achieve saturation.

Results: Eight themes emerged from the analysis of participants’ experiences: (a) struggles with living with chronic pain is a frustrating, persistent, daily, and even hourly; (b) resilience in living with chronic pain is a new normal; (c) mission first and the impact of invisible pain; (d) self-care management and internal locus of control in using non-pharmacological therapies;(e) pain accepted and managed to improve quality of life, (f) COVID-19 diminished social interaction; (g) pain of military sexual trauma is not reported; (h) disparities in health care due to self-perception of providers’ bias as pain is not understood. Transcripts and data were analyzed and utilized NVivo (OSR International) qualitative software.

Implications: The results of this phenomenological study generated new knowledge in Force Health Protection: (a) a fit and operational readiness force; (b) pre-to post-deployment care for women warriors; (c) access to health care. New knowledge was generated for civilian and military nursing who care for military and veteran women to influence military leaders and policy makers in Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs, raise health care professionals’ awareness, and understand military women living with chronic pain in both military and non-military communities. Future studies are needed to explore unconscious gender bias and health disparities as well as raise health-care professional’s awareness of military women with chronic pain.

Document Type

Dissertation: USD Users Only



Available for download on Saturday, April 29, 2023