Background. Patient satisfaction and patient satisfaction with nursing care data are routinely collected as an indicator of the quality of services delivered. Despite the widespread collection and reporting of these data, the theoretical basis of patient satisfaction and patient satisfaction with nursing care remains unclear. Without a clear theoretical base, interpretation of patient satisfaction findings is hampered and the entire line of patient satisfaction research is of questionable validity. It has been suggested that, to understand patient satisfaction, patient perceptions of their care must first be understood.
Aim. The aim of this study was to discover patients’ perceptions of the nursing care they receive in the hospital setting.
Method. Grounded theory method was used in this study of eight medical–surgical patients recently discharged from an academic medical centre in the south-eastern United States of America (USA). Participants were interviewed and the verbatim transcripts analysed using the constant comparative method.
Findings. Four categories of patient perceptions of their nursing care emerged from the data. ‘Seeing the individual patient’ captures the unique nature of the nursing care experience for each patient. ‘Explaining’ represents the informal explanations given by nursing staff as they provide care. ‘Responding’ refers to both the character and timeliness of nursing staff's responses to patient requests or symptoms. ‘Watching over’ represents the surveillance activities of nursing staff.
Conclusions. The categories identified in this study may be used in efforts to further develop a formal theory of patient satisfaction with nursing care. These categories should also be tested with patients possessing a wider range of characteristics, to assess the transferability of the findings.