Date of Award

Fall 12-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

Janie Butts

Committee Chair Department


Committee Member 2

Kay Lundy

Committee Member 2 Department


Committee Member 3

Sarah Lauterbach

Committee Member 3 Department


Committee Member 4

Bonnie Harbaugh

Committee Member 4 Department


Committee Member 5

Karen Rich

Committee Member 5 Department



Research and literature on nursing students living with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in higher education is deficient in supporting the needs of a growing population. The aim of this study sought to uncover the essence of nursing students’ experiences through a hermeneutic phenomenological approach and promote deeper understanding of the meaning of lifeworld experiences through the lens of critical social theory (CST). CST sustains freedom from ideological restraints to allow exploration into individual experiences. The voices of student participants provide the medium for articulating meaning. An integrative approach using van Manen’s (1990) and Munhall’s (2012) methods guided this study.

Research data was obtained from six student participants enrolled in an associate degree nursing program and a baccalaureate-nursing program located in the southeastern U.S. Findings revealed how student participants became aware of their differences in filtering distractions when compared to other nursing students. Student participants experienced ontological anxiety with an innate desire to be like others when they discovered they could not ignore their differences. The perception of stigma associated with ADHD and the desire to succeed in nursing school guided student participants into becoming-authentic by facilitating unique experimental methods of coping with their differences. Becoming-authentic ultimately guided student participants into recognizing their own uniqueness in Being. Research findings uncovered the fundamental need to embrace understanding of adults living with ADHD in the nursing profession and institutions of higher learning. The study illuminated meaning through an artistic approach and validated hermeneutic phenomenology through its scientific approach. The art and science of nursing practice discovered in this study implicates the need to further research and the development of support systems.