Patients' perceptions of participation in nursing care on medical wards

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Patient participation benefits the patient and is a core concept of patient-centred care. Patients believe in their ability to prevent errors; thus, they may play a vital role in combating adverse event rates in hospitals.

Aims and objectives:

To explore hospitalised medical patients' perceptions of participating in nursing care, including the barriers and facilitators for this activity.

Research methods:

This interpretive study was conducted on four medical wards, in two hospitals. Purposeful maximum variation sampling was operationalised to recruit patients that differed in areas such as age, gender and mobility status. In-depth semi-structured audiotaped interviews were undertaken and analysed using inductive content analysis.


Twenty patients participated in the study. Four categories were uncovered in the data. First, valuing participation showed patients' willingness to participate, viewing it as a worthwhile task. Second, exchanging intelligence was a way of participating where patients' knowledge was built and shared with health professionals. Third, on the lookout was a type of participation where patients monitored their care, showing an attentive approach towards their own safety. Fourth, power imbalance was characterised by patients feeling their opportunities for participation were restricted.


Patients were motivated to participate and valued participation. Cultivating this motivation may be crucial to patient empowerment and practices of safety monitoring, a fundamental strategy to addressing patient safety issues in hospitals. Engaging nurse–patient relationships, inclusive of knowledge sharing, is required in practice to empower patients to participate. Educating patients on the consequences of non-participation may motivate them, while nurses may benefit from training on patient-centred approaches. Future research should address ways to increase patient motivation and opportunities to participate.

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