Aims. The paper reports a study whose aims were to explore the meaning of participation for older people in hospital and their health care workers and ways in which staff can enhance patient participation in their care.
Background. Participation in care is a concept that is central to nursing practice. However, little is known about patient and staff views of participation and how it takes place in practice.
Methods. Action research was used, and data were collected by means of focus groups and in-depth interviews. Three focus groups and 24 interviews were undertaken with staff, and 19 interviews were undertaken with patients. The main action undertaken with staff aimed at raising their awareness of participation. In addition small changes in practice were introduced, such as the use of a patient biographical booklet.
Findings. The findings suggest that participation is a dynamic process that is integral to the work of nurses and carers. The process is enacted through the themes of facilitation, partnership, understanding the person, and emotional work.
Conclusion. The study demonstrates how nurses can become increasingly aware of the potential for facilitation and creation of opportunities for participation. It is crucial that practitioners working with older people develop a deeper understanding of participation and are also empowered to act in ways that fit with the needs of this specific client group.