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Patients’ attitudes, the hospital environment, and staff behaviour affected patients’ dignity on a surgical ward

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What is the meaning of dignity for patients in an acute care hospital? How is dignity threatened or promoted?


Qualitative case study.


Surgical ward in an acute care hospital in the UK.


Purposeful case sample of 24 patients 34–92 years of age (mean age 64 y, 62% men) who were admitted to hospital and stayed on the ward for ⩾2 days; and 26 ward-based staff (nurses and healthcare assistants) and 6 senior nurses.


Patients were observed on the ward during twelve 4-hour sessions, and field notes were taken. 12 patients and 13 ward-based staff were interviewed immediately after observation; 12 other patients were interviewed within 2 weeks of discharge. 6 senior nurses were interviewed separately. Questions addressed the meaning of dignity; effects of hospital setting, staff, or situations on patient dignity; and how to promote dignity. Detailed notes, including verbatim speech, were taken; patient interviews after discharge and those with senior nurses were audiotaped and transcribed. Data were coded and analysed for themes.

Main findings

4 themes were found. (1) …

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  • Source of funding no external funding.