• This paper examines the relationship between internal locus of control and recovery from surgery for fractured neck of femur in women over the age of 65 years, in order to inform strategies for nursing care.
• Structured interviews were carried out at 5 and 30 days postsurgery with 112 women (mean age 78.6 years) in five general hospitals in the North of England.
• Locus of control was assessed as a factor associated with the outcomes of physical disability (measured as dependence in activities of daily living) and psychological distress (measured using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale).
• Internal locus of control was significantly related to less physical disability, but no association was found between locus of control and depression and anxiety at 30 days postsurgery when age, 5-day measures and other 30-day outcome measures were controlled.
• The findings suggest that nursing interventions that enhance perceived internal control by patients during rehabilitation may result in better physical outcomes. Further work is required to explore the relationship of control to psychological outcomes.