Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Nursing Science

Dissertation Committee

Louise M. Rauckhorst, EdD, RN, Chair; Patricia A. Roth, EdD, RN; Jane M. Georges, PhD, RN


Acute Myocardial Infarction, Coronary Artery Disease, hospitalization, Lived experience, nursing, women


Recent research indicates that the majority of women underestimate their risk of developing coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD claims the lives of more women than all forms of cancer; however, women have not received the symptom recognition or treatment that has been accorded to men with CAD. Review of literature indicated a lack of research regarding the experiences of women with acute myocardial infarction (AMI). This phenomenological study explored the lived experience of women with AMI immediately prior to hospitalization. The lines of inquiry focused on descriptive language regarding pre-event feelings, the symptoms experienced at AMI onset, their response to those symptoms, and the circumstances leading to hospital admission. Giorgi's method for conducting phenomenological research was employed for data collection and analysis. Twelve women, aged 55 to 80 years of age, consented to participate in taped, unstructured interviews conducted by the investigator. The interview question was: "What were you experiencing that made you feel that you might be having a heart attack?" The participants spontaneously shared their stories in one to two hour interviews which were then transcribed and analyzed. Three main themes emerged from the data, which included: something is different, the need for care, and the need for voice. Subthemes identified were: reality recognition, caring for self, and facing the professionals. The findings indicated that half the participants described their symptoms using terms included in AMI symptom check lists used in previous studies. Only one quarter of the women identified chest pain as one of their AMI symptoms. Inadequate communication between these women and health professionals was evident. Thus women's AMI symptoms could easily fail to be recognized as significant by an uninformed caregiver. Less delay time in obtaining treatment was reported by those women who had immediately available family support. Implications of the findings for nursing practice and education were articulated. Further research was recommended regarding development of strategies to decrease CAD risk factors in women, to increase lay and professional knowledge of AMI signs and symptoms in women, and to empower women to better communicate their symptoms and become their own health care advocates.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access



Included in

Nursing Commons