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Military deployment, Parental separation, Phenomenology.



  1. Scannell-Desch, Elizabeth PhD, RN
  2. Doherty, Mary Ellen PhD, RN, CNM


Purpose: The purpose of this study is to describe the lived experience of military nurse-parents separated from their children during deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan, 2003-2010.


Design and Methods: A qualitative study using a phenomenological approach. Semistructured in-depth interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of 20 military nurse-parents deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. Three data-generating questions guided the study: (1) What was the experience of leaving your children during your wartime deployment? (2) How did you stay in contact with your children while deployed? (3) Is there anything else you want to tell us about separation from your children? Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data saturation was achieved, and analysis procedures were adapted from Colaizzi.


Results: Four themes emerged from the data: (1) Impact with Reality: Leaving My Children Behind; (2) Childcare Arrangements: Putting the Puzzle Together; (3) Will They Remember Me: Staying in Touch; and (4) Caring For War-Injured Children: Reflections of Home.


Clinical Implications: Insight into the experience of nurse-parents deployed to a war zone provides a framework for additional research on parental separation in war. Interventions need to be tailored to meet the needs of military families.