Poster Presentation The 26th International Nursing Philosophy Conference 2023

Exploring ‘personhood’ as the basis for understanding social processes in traumatic brain injury care (#26)

Stephen Kivunja 1 2 , Janice Gullick 1 , Julie Pryor 1 3 , Jo River 4 5
  1. Faculty of Medicine and Health, Susan Wakil School of Nursing and Midwifery, The University of Sydney, Camperdown, NSW, Australia
  2. Western Sydney Local Health District, Westmead, NSW, Australia
  3. Royal Rehab, Ryde, NSW, Australia
  4. Faculty of Health, The University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia
  5. Northern Sydney Local Health District, Sydney, NSW, Australia


Globally, diverse philosophical traditions are used to explore how nursing care promotes personhood (Imafidon, 2022). For example, the Continental philosophy of personhood conceptualises the person as the subject that is autonomous, and capable of understanding the world around them (Imafidon, 2022).The Afro-communitarianism personhood philosophy holds that personhood is communally determined and does not emerge from a solitary, autonomous-self (Imafidon, 2022). Personhood has also been described as encompassing the status bestowed upon a person(Kitwood,1997); the person’s psychological capacities; the possession of moral agency (Walker & Lovat, 2015),  and the patient’s social, relational, temporal and biological dimensions (Tieu et al., 2021). This presentation discusses emerging findings from a doctoral study exploring the social processes that promote and preserve personhood in traumatic brain injury (TBI) using Constructivist Grounded Theory (Charmaz, 2014). The study is underpinned by symbolic interactionism, a theoretical perspective that focuses on active processes by which people create and mediate meanings and assumes that people construct reality through interaction and actions (Charmaz, 2014). This perspective informs data-interpretation and theoretical construction.

Preliminary findings demonstrate particular ways that rehabilitation nurses value the person who is the patient. This is a dynamic process that begins with monitoring and attending to physiologic integrity, personalising care and equipment, and extends to enabling self-care and personal agency as a goal of rehabilitation nursing. Attention to the social world of the person is a further domain that underpins preservation of personhood.  

Rehabilitation nursing requires a particular approach to practice, given that taken-for granted elements of personhood may be disrupted through injury, and are central to supporting recovery.             

Keywords: Personhood, traumatic brain injury, patients, families, nurses