Husserl, phenomenology and nursing

J Adv Nurs. 1997 Jul;26(1):187-93. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2648.1997.1997026187.x.


Discussions of phenomenological research in nursing consistently appeal to either Husserl or Heidegger in justifying the technical and conceptual resources they deploy. This paper focuses on Husserl, and examines the relationship between his phenomenology and the accounts of it that are to be found in the nursing literature. Three central ideas are given particular attention: the phenomenological reduction, phenomena, and essence. It is argued that nurse researchers largely misunderstand these concepts and that, as a result, their version of Husserl's philosophy bears little resemblance to the original. A further consequence is that the project of identifying the 'essential structure' of a phenomenon, typically adopted by the nurse researchers who cite Husserl as an authority, comes close to being unintelligible. It is suggested that, while the methods used in 'phenomenological' nursing research may still have some legitimacy, they cannot achieve what they are alleged to achieve, and they should be detached from the framework of Husserlian ideas and terminology which is supposed to justify them.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Nursing Research
  • Philosophy, Nursing*