Leadership Studies Ed.D. Dissertations


A Phenomenological Study of the Nurse Leader: Before, During, and After Merger

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Leadership Studies

First Advisor

Mark Earley, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Penny Soboleski, Ed.D. (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Patrick Pauken, J.D., Ph.D. (Committee Chair)

Fourth Advisor

Joyce Litten, Ed.D. (Committee Chair)

Fifth Advisor

Deborah Vargo, Ph.D. (Committee Chair)


The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological research study was: (a) to understand nurse leaders' lived experience before, during and after a merger; (b) to explore and gain insight and understanding into the experiences of nurse leaders who have led, managed, and guided others through a merger in healthcare; and (c) to appreciate the attributes of the merger experience that led to meaning-making for the nurse leaders. Sixteen nurse leaders were interviewed two times as they all had experienced the merger phenomena. Study findings emerged using the Stevick-Colaizzi-Keen (1978) phenomenological data analysis process in examining the participants' narrative transcripts. The descriptions of how I arrived at the significant statements, the formulated interpretive meaning statements, and the explanation of the analysis of textual theme clusters were provided. Data from this study generated an exhaustive description. The four structural descriptions or essential themes of masking, mirroring, mitigating and moving on, and; the universal essence of the phenomena was discovered and validated as accurate by the participants. The nurse leaders' lived experience of merger exposed not only the strong beating heart of nurse leadership, but its brain, muscle, and nerve endings: alert, throbbing, raw and exhausted. The study findings contributed to an understanding of how the narrative of the merger experience is laid down in the layers below our everyday awareness in which the self is always changing, always growing, and always discovering itself. This research raised further questions to be explored in understanding other factors nurse leaders experienced with organizational change through merger: loss of control; loss of identity, and resilience, and may provide ample background in which to approach additional qualitative research in the study of leadership. All of the nurse leaders in this study were female serving in the subordinate community hospital organization. Further research with a more diverse gender base may reveal interesting findings. The accumulated expertise and experience of this group of nurse leaders is untapped in terms of mobilizing organizational change in hospitals and healthcare delivery systems. Three policy issues were offered to assist with the achievement of healthcare organizational change through merger and acquisition: (a) improved communications, (b) appropriate learning and development, and (c) individual experiential change journeys. Changing an organization is fundamentally and undeniably an emotional human process.