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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Nursing home staff’s views on residents’ dignity: a qualitative interview study

Mariska G Oosterveld-Vlug1*, H Roeline W Pasman1, Isis E van Gennip1, Dick L Willems2 and Bregje D Onwuteaka-Philipsen1

  • * Corresponding author: Mariska G Oosterveld-Vlug eol@vumc.nl

Author affiliations

1 Department of Public and Occupational Health, EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, Expertise Center for Palliative Care, VU University Medical Center, Van der Boechorststraat 7, 1081 BT, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

2 Department of General Practice, Section of Medical Ethics, Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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Citation and License

BMC Health Services Research 2013, 13:353  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-353

Published: 16 September 2013

Abstract

Background

Maintaining dignity is an important element of end-of-life care and also of the care given in nursing homes. Factors influencing personal dignity have been studied from both nursing home residents’ and staff’s perspective. Little is however known about the way nursing home staff perceive and promote the personal dignity of individual residents in daily practice, or about staff’s experiences with preserving dignity within the nursing home. The aim of this study is to gain more insight in this.

Methods

A qualitative descriptive interview study was designed, in which in-depth interviews were performed with 13 physicians and 15 nurses. They expressed their views on the personal dignity of 30 recently admitted nursing home residents on the general medical wards of four nursing homes in The Netherlands. Interviews were transcribed and analyzed following the principles of thematic analysis.

Results

According to both physicians and nurses, physical impairment and being dependent on others threatened the residents’ dignity. Whether or not this led to a violation of an individual resident’s dignity, depended - in staff’s opinion - on the resident’s ability to show resilience and to keep his/her individuality. Staff mentioned treating residents with respect and taking care of their privacy as most important elements of dignity-conserving care and strived to treat the residents as they would like to be treated themselves. They could often mention aspects that were important for a particular resident’s dignity. But, when asked what they could contribute to a particular resident’s dignity, they often mentioned general aspects of dignity-conserving care, which could apply to most nursing home residents. By attempting to give dignity-conserving care, physicians and nurses often experienced conflicting values in daily care and barriers caused by the lack of resources.

Conclusions

Tailoring dignity-conserving care to an individual nursing home resident appears hard to bring about in daily practice. Both attention to solve contextual barriers within the nursing home as well as more awareness of staff members for their own values, which they take as a reference point in treating residents, is needed to promote personal dignity in the nursing home setting.

Keywords:
Dignity; Elderly care physicians; End-of-life issues; Interviews; Nurses; Nursing home; Older people