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Hermeneutics, Internet, Virtual focus group



  1. Dickerson, Suzanne Steffan DNS, RN
  2. Feitshans, Lisa A. MS, RN


Worldwide, people are using the Internet for computer-mediated communication (CMC) in increasing numbers. Nurse researchers have begun to examine the use of this medium for communication, education, and support of their clients. Therefore, it is important to know the experiences and meanings of CMC if the Internet is to be used for nursing interventions. The purpose of this study was to examine the experiences and meaning of online communications for frequent Internet users and discuss implications for nursing practice. Four virtual focus groups consisting of a total of 32 individuals were included in this study. Their stories of everyday Internet use were analyzed by hermeneutic interpretation. Six related themes and 1 constitutive pattern emerged from the data: (1) Internet as a resource for communication, information, and entertainment; (2) Internet as appealing, drawing one into frequent use; (3) developing dependencies; (4) Internet as frustrating; (5) learning the rules; and (6) developing physical and psychosocial effects. The constitutive pattern is immersion into the virtual world. This knowledge can be used to identify the potential effects of integrating the Internet into nursing interventions. Nurses who plan Internet-based interventions need to understand the appeal of this medium as well as the limitations and barriers to use.


Sixty-one million Americans go online daily 1 and are able to participate in computer-mediated communication (CMC) in the form of e-mail, listservs, bulletin boards, and chat rooms. People, in general, are using the Internet for communication and for seeking health care information in increasing numbers. 1,2 It is important for nurses who plan to use this medium for patient education, support, or research to understand how people use it everyday and what they find appealing or frustrating. This information will help nurses design Web-based interventions that have practical use while taking into consideration the potential limitations associated with the Internet.