An adolescent ward; ‘in name only?’

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Aims and objectives

The aim of the study was to explore how an adolescent ward was used by the two main users, nurses and adolescents, on a purpose-built adolescent ward.


In Australia, caring for the adolescent is part of paediatric nursing and many Australian hospitals boast of ‘adolescent-only facilities’. These wards are established on the premise that adolescent patients are a ‘special’ group deserving their own ward space. With the development of adolescent wards, set ideals around what this type of environment provides have also arisen. These ideals are increased privacy and independence for the patient, a chance for peer interaction, to be nursed by specially trained staff and to provide opportunities for adolescent patients to participate in their own care.


This study used ethnography to gain a perspective of how ward space was used. Data were collected using participant observation and formal and informal interviews. Data were then analysed using the works of Lefebvre and Foucault.


This study found that patient allocation, nursing observation and patient labels impact on how adolescent patients are nursed. Patients are expected to fit in, accepting all ministrations of nursing and staff.


On this ward, nursing work was paramount. Nurses treated the adolescent patient like any other. In saying this, the adolescent patient still found ways to adapt to the ward space and its rules and routines; so in this sense, the ward still worked for them, even if nursing work was paramount.

Relevance to clinical practice

This study contributes to current discourse on the formation of specialized facilities in general, as it shows that no matter how a ward space is set up, if the space is not used in that way, then the purported purpose of that ward space will be lost.

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