Waiting for healthcare: a concept analysis


  • Caroline Fogarty,

    1. Caroline Fogarty BSc MSc RN Clinical Nurse Manager, Colorectal Nurse Department of Colorectal Surgery, Adelaide and Meath incorporating National Children’s Hospital, Dublin, Ireland
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  • Patricia Cronin

    1. Patricia Cronin MSc RN RNT Lecturer School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Dublin, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
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C. Fogarty:
e-mail: caroline.fogarty@amnch.ie


Title. Waiting for healthcare: a concept analysis

Aim.  This paper is a report of an analysis of the concept of waiting for health care from the client’s perspective.

Background.  Waiting is commonplace in many areas of health care and has become a topical and politically important issue in the provision of healthcare services. Whilst managers and governments search for solutions to this problem, it is important that this aspect of clients’ healthcare experience is examined to evaluate its impact and implications for nursing practice.

Methods.  The PubMed and CINAHL databases (dating from 1950 and 1982 to 2007 respectively) were searched using the keywords ‘health care’ and ‘waiting’. The reference lists of papers identified were also checked and this revealed literature from a number of other disciplines related to the concept.

Results.  Waiting for health care is identified as an unspecified yet measurable period of time between identification of a healthcare problem and its diagnosis and treatment, when clients experience uncertainty and powerlessness whilst anticipating a disease outcome. The critical attributes of waiting for health care are: a period of measured time, subjective interpretation of the perceived significance of the measured time, feeling uncertain and powerless and anticipation of a response to the healthcare need.

Conclusion.  Strategies that facilitate contact with clients through pre-assessment clinics and giving written information and a contact point may seem obvious but are currently overlooked in busy healthcare environments. This is an area where nurses can lead in the delivery of person-centred care and could potentially increase satisfaction with how waiting is managed.