Defense Date


Graduation Date

Summer 2011


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program for Education Leaders (IDPEL)


School of Education

Committee Chair

James E. Henderson

Committee Member

Sheri L. Goldstrohm

Committee Member

Allyson Havill


Acute care, Educators, Lived experience, Psychiatric hospital


Human service professionals serve roles in society in which they are responsible for the well-being of countless numbers of people. These professionals span important fields including nursing, social work, law enforcement, medicine, and education. This study focused on a specific subgroup of human service professionals: special education teachers who practice within an acute care inpatient psychiatric facility. The purpose of this qualitative study was to investigate the lived experiences of educators in order to identify emergent themes that best describe their experiences.

The psychiatric hospital in this study is a large hospital located within an urban area of the Northeastern United States. The hospital is part of a large, not-for-profit medical system that serves both clients with private health insurance as well as clients on a variety of government sponsored health plans. Within this setting, the turnover rate for the special education teachers was approximately 72% between 2005-2010. Using a sample of 6 volunteer teachers, qualitative data related to their lived experiences were collected through the use of semi-structured interviews. The hermeneutic phenomenological approach was utilized to explore emergent themes in the lived human world, as we may find it at any particular moment.

Within the literature review, five themes were formulated from the experience of personal narratives and from research findings related to this topic in regards to other mental health professionals. The five themes were utilized as a guide and a lens with the understanding that there were going to be more existing themes within the setting that become exposed during the investigation. The five themes were: effort/reward imbalance, workplace bullying/horizontal violence, sleep disturbance, burnout and efficacy.

The results of this study led to 4 global emergent themes and 17 emergent subthemes. The four global themes that describe the lived experience of educators are relationships, safety, whole body reactions, and system reactions. The findings lend important data to the relative dearth of information related to the lived experiences of professional educators who practice within large acute care inpatient psychiatric facilities.