Graduate School of Nursing Dissertations

Publication Date


Document Type

Dissertation, Doctoral


Graduate School of Nursing

Dissertation Committee Chair

Susan Sullivan-Bolyai


Wounds and Injuries, External Fixators, Adolescent

Subject Categories

Critical Care Nursing | Nursing | Orthopedics | Pediatric Nursing | Perioperative, Operating Room and Surgical Nursing | Trauma


Over 13 million adolescents sustain traumatic injuries yearly, resulting in functional disability, disfigurement, psychosocial problems and fractures. These fractures are increasingly being treated with orthopedic external fixation devices (EFDs). The purpose of this study was to describe the experience of traumatically injured adolescents treated with EFDs. The 4 aims of the study focused on the circumstances leading to the traumatic event, experiences following the traumatic event, the impact of EFD treatment, and adolescents’ role in pin-care self-management, which is crucial to preventing infection.

This longitudinal, qualitative descriptive study used purposive sampling to recruit 5 male and 4 female adolescents, 13-20 years old, from a New England level-1 trauma center. Participants were injured in motor vehicle crashes (including an all-terrain vehicle), falls, by gunshot, trampoline and football trauma. Interview questions were framed by two themes from a study of adult recovery from physical injury, i.e., the event and fallout. Participants were interviewed within days of the injury, 2 weeks after returning home, and within one month of EFD removal. Data were coded from verbatim transcripts using NVIVO and organized into themes guided by the principles of qualitative analysis.

An overarching theme of “old self no more; forever changed” emerged from 26 interviews. The participants’ experience affected all tasks of adolescence: independence from parents, accepting body image, peer relations, and forming an identity. Major themes included “what risk?”, regarding circumstances leading to the traumatic event, mastering the environment, was 2 part first, processing the event, where determining fault and realizing everything has changed, they were ambivalently lucky, and not invincible. Secondly “suck it up and deal with it”, where strategies to deal with traumatic injury emerged (i.e. medication, channeling outlets, and slow caution). EFD experience revealed “Space age robot” and “they’ll do it themselves” as emergent themes. EFDs were described as painless, robotic, no big deal and necessary. One draining pin-site was noted. Findings related to use of self-administered analgesics, information technology, recall of detail, and gender differences in coping may lead to future interventions. These findings lay the groundwork for future studies that may improve care of adolescents during acute recovery from traumatic injury.



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