Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

The last issue of the Journal of Scientific Exploration has a report authored by Alejandro Parra and Paola Giménez Amarilla entitled “Anomalous/Paranormal Experiences Reported by Nurses in Relation to Their Patients in Hospitals” (Journal of Scientific Exploration, 2017, 31, 1–28).

Alejandro Parra

Alejandro Parra

Paola Gimenez Amarilla

Paola Giménez Amarilla

Here is the abstract:

“Using existing reports of Anomalous/Paranormal Experiences (APE) by nurses in hospital and health center settings, the aim was to determine the extent of occurrence of certain types of anomalous perceptual experiences and their relationship to the nurses’ job stress, proneness to hallucination, and psychological absorption. From the total number of 130 participants recruited from nursing departments, we received 100 usable questionnaires from eight hospitals and health centers in Argentina. Using the Anomalous/Paranormal Experiences in Nurse & Health Workers Survey (which measures frequency of paranormal/anomalous experiences) (see Appendix), 54 experiencer nurses (APE) and 46 control (non-experiencer nurses) were reclustered. All of them also filled out the Maslach Burnout Inventory, the Hallucinations Experiences Questionnaire, and the Tellegen Absorption Scale. While nurses reporting such experiences did not tend to experience greater job stress, those who reported a combination of hallucination perceptual experiences and a high level of psychological absorption tended to score higher for anomalous/paranormal experiences compared with those who did not report such experiences.”

The authors write in their conclusion:

“The aim of this study was to determine the degree of occurrence of certain unusual perceptual experiences in hospital settings and their relationship to job stress and psychological absorption. The study was based on a comparison of the degree of job stress and absorption in nurses having these experiences with nurses not having these experiences. Results showed that of the 100 nurses surveyed, 55 of them reported having had at least one anomalous experience in the hospital setting, the most common being the feeling of ‘presences,’ hearing strange noises, voices, or dialogues, noticing the tears or groans of patients, and intuitively ‘knowing’ what disease patients have.”

“In this study, nurses who reported these experiences tended to score higher on psychological absorption . . . Absorption may also indicate a more habitual use of or recurrent desire to engage in absorbed mental activity, such that habitually poor reality monitoring becomes an enduring aspect of one’s cognitive style. Although the nurses who had APEs tended to show a higher proneness to hallucinate and scored higher in the six subscales on hallucination, this need not mean that all APEs are pure hallucinatory fantasies produced by job stress, since some could still be potentially veridical . . .”

“Hence, in the context of this study, the distinction between purely subjective experiences and those considered paranormal (veridical APE) is irrelevant. Even veridical experiences may depend on the same psychological predispositional factors as do non-veridical experiences . . .”

“Approximately 24% of the 100 respondents knew of such experiences by others, but had not had any themselves. The most common experiences reported by patients were near-death experiences (NDE, 19%). About 18% also mentioned an anomalous recovery through a religious intervention (18%) . . . In relation to anomalous experiences with children (15%), these experiences in general play an adaptive and protective function, which can decrease the level of anxiety around death and loss, and can relieve tension related to a memory . . .”

“Generally speaking, the information that most people have about these experiences and their association with psychiatric disorders leads to prejudice and resistance to providing data. Thus there are a number of drawbacks connected with this research in hospital settings as they are conservative institutions, unlikely to be open about their population and even more so with respect to providing information relating to the subject of this investigation. The nurses did reveal their personal and professional experiences and those of their patients, noting that they considered experiences of paranormal phenomena within a hospital setting not to be infrequent or unexpected. They were not frightened by their patients’ experiences, or their own, and exhibited a quiet confidence in the reality of the experiences for themselves and the dying person. Acceptance of these experiences, without interpretation or explanation, characterized their responses. By reassuring them that the occurrence of paranormal phenomena was not uncommon and was often comforting to the dying person, we may assist nurses to be instrumental in normalizing a potentially misunderstood and frightening experience.”