Patients’ and nurses’ perceptions of nursing problems in an acute care setting


  • Jan Florin MSN RN,

  • Anna Ehrenberg PhD RN,

  • Margareta Ehnfors PhD RNT

Jan Florin,
Department of Health and Social Sciences,
Dalarna University,
79188 Falun,


Aim.  This paper reports a study to determine the degree of agreement or disagreement between nurses and patients in their perceptions of the presence, severity, and importance of nursing problems.

Background.  Patient experiences, values and preferences are increasingly acknowledged as important factors underpinning healthcare decision-making. The ability to identify patient problems accurately is an important prerequisite for planning and implementing individualized high quality care.

Methods.  A convenience sample of patients (n = 80) and Registered Nurses (n = 30) in an acute care setting responded to a 43-item questionnaire.

Findings.  Nurses identified patients’ problems with a sensitivity of 0·53 and a positive predictive value of 0·50. Patients identified several severe problems that were not identified by nurses, particularly problems with nutrition, sleep, pain, and emotions/spirituality. Nurses underestimated the severity in 47% of mutually-identified problems. An overall level of agreement of 44% was found on the importance of patient problems. Low levels of agreement on severity and importance were related more to individual differences than to systematic differences.

Conclusions.  Nurses need to be more aware that patients and nurses often hold disparate views of the priorities in nursing care. To plan individualized nursing care effectively, nurses need to elicit and use individual patients’ preferences more systematically in care planning.