Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Nursing

Dissertation Committee

Ann M. Mayo, DNSc, RN, FAAN, Chairperson; Sharon B. Kepple, PhD, MSN-FNP-C, PHN, Member; Gabriella Malagon-Maldonado, PhD, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, Member


New graduate nurse, dementia care, person-centered care


Title. Phenomenological Study of the Lived Experience of New Graduate Nurses Caring for Hospitalized Patients Living with Dementia.

Purpose. This study explored new graduate nurses’ lived experiences in caring for hospitalized patients living with dementia.

Background. The first twelve months of transitioning from student to professional nurse in acute care settings are the most stressful, emotionally challenging, and mentally exhausting for new nurses striving to apply newly acquired skills into practice. Some of the most challenging patients for nurses to care for are hospitalized patients living with dementia (PtLWD). With the projected increase in the number of patients with dementia in hospitals, it is imperative to understand the challenges nurses face when providing safe and effective care to PtLWD.

Methods. Using the hermeneutic phenomenology approach, as influenced by Heidegger and Gadamer, eleven new graduate nurses were recruited from a hospital in southern California. The lived experience of each participant was collected through remotely conducted semi-structured interviews and by using open-ended questions. Transcribed interviews were read and analyzed using the Braun and Clarke’s (2006) linear, 6-phased method, to interpret meanings and arrive at an understanding of the essence of the participants’ lived experiences.

Findings. The thematic analysis yielded nine overall themes addressing two lines of inquiry. The themes discovered in the first line of inquiry included protecting patient’s universal rights, ensuring patient safety and well-being, complex care delivery experience, fostering therapeutic nurse-patient relationship, nurse’s positive adaptation and role transition. In the second line of inquiry, the themes included preservation of human connections, feeling inadequate and experiencing personal distress. The themes were analyzed over time and articulated into a cogent phenomenological lived experience.

Implications for Research. Study findings suggest that further research is needed to establish a better onboarding process among new graduate nurses caring for hospitalized PtLWD and support the need to initiate advanced care planning as soon as the diagnosis of dementia is identified. This study contributes to the body of knowledge by providing deeper meaning and purpose, enhancing understanding of the new graduate nurses’ roles, and recognizing their feeling as they provide care to hospitalized PtLWD.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access