The lived expereince of becoming a diabetic: A phenomenological study

Open Access
Adam, Marianne Terese
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
June 20, 2012
Committee Members:
  • Carol A Smith, Dissertation Advisor
  • Judith E Hupcey, Committee Member
  • Robert A Gabbay, Committee Member
  • Edward W Taylor, Committee Member
  • Diabetes
  • self-care
  • self-management
  • learning
  • recently diagnosed
  • phenomenology
Type 2 diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease that affects an estimated 25.8 million persons or 8.3% of the U.S. population, who are at high risk for major health complications (CDC, 2011; NDIC, 2012). Control of the disease depends largely on the diabetic’s adoption of self-care and health management strategies designed to control serum glucose levels. Diabetes Self-Management Education (DSME) is one process recommended to facilitate health behavior change and usually an expectation for the person who is recently diagnosed. However, outcomes of the formalized DSME programs are inconsistent and the overall process of actual self-care learning in the context of a recent diagnosis of diabetes is poorly understood. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to enhance the understanding of the initial lived experience of becoming a diabetic. The focus was on the individual’s engagement with learning new self-care activities and initiating changes in self-care commonly recommended in order to control serum glucose and generally manage the disease progression. The focus was not on how learning occurs or is accomplished as a process but rather on uncovering the key elements and the context of the actual experience itself to gain information not previously explored. Using an interpretive phenomenological method of inquiry (van Manen, 1990), this study investigated the lived experience of becoming a diabetic in 10 adults recently diagnosed with type 2 (often referred to as ‘adult onset’) diabetes. The participants (8 females and 2 males) ranged in age from 39 to 77. Most (9) had been diagnosed within 1.5 years of this study. Analysis of the data obtained from open-ended interviews revealed three themes of the lived experience of becoming a diabetic: (a) hearing the news (diagnosis), (b) sorting it out, and (c) moving on. Although these themes framed the experience for all of the participants, they were not in a fixed order. Improved understanding of the experience of becoming a diabetic and responses to the disease, as revealed in this study, provides new insight into how to best support patients in similar situations. Implications for nursing practice, education, and research are also identified.