Being a practitioner: an application of Heidegger’s phenomenology

Wilson, Anthea (2014). Being a practitioner: an application of Heidegger’s phenomenology. Nurse Researcher, 21(6) pp. 28–33.



Aim To explain how Heidegger’s phenomenology can be applied to investigations of practitioners’ experiences and enhance research of roles.

Background The application of phenomenology in nursing research has been subject to strong criticism. A recent phenomenological investigation of nurses’ experiences of mentoring students has shown the value of applying Heidegger’s ideas to understand practitioners’ experiences.

Data sources The author’s experience of conducting a hermeneutic phenomenological study and influential literature. Review methods: An inquiry into the author’s application of Heidegger’s philosophy to an empirical study.

Discussion Heidegger’s phenomenology was based on his concept of ‘dasein’, denoting existence as ‘being in the world’. These ideas of existence are discussed in relation to the experiences of practitioners. A nurse or other practitioner’s experiences of practice are explained according to three modes of being: absorbed in practice, noticing practice and contemplating practice. The paper shows how this layered understanding of a person’s lifeworld can be incorporated into the design of empirical research.

Conclusion Heideggerian phenomenology provides a defendable framework in which to examine experience of practice. Implications for practice/research Given the expanding diversity of nursing roles, this methodology offers a route for improving our understanding of the implications for the nurses occupying particular roles.

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