Patient Dignity and Effects

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Running head: PATIENTS’ DIGNITY AND THE EFFECTS OF NURSING CARE

Patients’ Dignity and the Effects of Nursing Care

Patients’ Dignity and the Effects of Nursing Care
Introduction
Modern healthcare is moving toward a patient-centered care, emphasizing patients’ autonomy, and participation in decision making about treatment. Despite these expectations, patients feel vulnerable not only due to disease process, but also due to the power exerted by the hospital system. Critical care settings often consider patient’s physical needs as the only aspect requiring care. The fast-paced focus and limited time in emergency department make it difficult to attend to the holistic needs of the patient. Physical barriers of the equipment connected to the patient hinder the humanistic view of the patient and the necessary communication for ensuring dignified interactions. The dignity of patients is a major concern in healthcare, and every human being has the right to be treated with respect and dignity. More appreciation and better understanding of dignity is needed among nurses to improve the quality of care. According to Neno (2006), nurses need to continuously improve their skills and competencies to ensure that people are treated with dignity. Patients present to the hospital already vulnerable due to illness, and place their lives in the hands of healthcare professionals. On top of compromised health, hospitalization often creates feelings of loss of control, helplessness, loss of worth, and loss of autonomy. Nurses need to provide quality care, maintaining patients’ dignity, and promoting autonomy and self-worth by showing understanding and respect. Often, patients present confused or unresponsive, not comprehending the world around them. It would seem that such person does not have any dignity. Dignity has to be maintained in the care provided regardless of patient’s knowing or understanding of the place and moment in time. According to the Code of Ethics for Nurses: “The worth of the person is not affected by disease, disability, functional status, or proximity to death” (2001, p. 7). Purpose

“Dignity means different things to different people” (Gallagher, 2004). Walsh (2002) noted that the concept of dignity is frequently cited in nursing literature, but only few studies attempt to define it. The myriad of available definitions and explanations does not benefit nursing and patient care in understanding dignity, and it is still a concept that evokes many thoughts. Concept analysis is a process to create a meaning of abstract concepts such as dignity. This paper uses concept analysis method of Walker and Avant (1995) to clarify the components of the dignity concept as it applies to nursing and patient care, so it can be better understood and utilized. Literature Definition

Although nursing schools emphasize nurses’ obligation to promote and maintain patients’ dignity, no definitions or instructions are provided on how to promote such care or assess its outcomes. The dictionary definition of dignity states: “bearing, conduct, or speech indicative of self-respect or appreciation of the formality or gravity of an occasion or situation, nobility or elevation of character; worthiness, elevated rank, office, station” and “the quality or state of being worthy, honored, or esteemed” (Dictionary.com Unabridged, n.d.). Another dictionary adds: “a sense of pride in oneself” (Compact Oxford English Dictionary, n.d.). Not all of these descriptions of dignity apply to healthcare. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing defined dignity as “respect for the inherent worth and uniqueness of individuals and populations” (as cited by Jacelon & Henneman, 2004). Gallagher (2004) stated that dignity is equal for all human beings, but Haddock (1996) informed that: “humans are also unique, and have ‘personal’ dignity which only has personal meaning”. The author noted that dignity...
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