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Existential struggle and self-reported needs of patients in rehabilitation


J. Sigurgeirsdottir:


Title. Existential struggle and self-reported needs of patients in rehabilitation

Aim.  This paper is a report of a study to increase understanding of patients’ experience of rehabilitation and their self-reported needs in that context.

Background.  Nurses need to be able to recognize patient needs to plan effective and individualized care. Needs-led nursing care is emphasized in the nursing literature, but few studies in rehabilitation have explored needs from the patient’s perspective.

Method.  The sample of this phenomenological study was purposively selected and the data consisted of 16 in-depth interviews with 12 people aged between 26 and 85 years. The data were collected in 2005.

Findings.  The findings showed that being a patient in rehabilitation involves existential struggling, as the reason behind patients’ rehabilitation, accident or illness usually leads to trying to cope with existential changes while needing to adapt to new characteristics of life and self. This makes patients vulnerable and their self-reported needs include individualized caring and emotional support from family, peers and staff. Participants also reported a need for a sense of security in a stable and homelike environment, with assistance, help and presence. Finally, they reported needing goal-oriented and progressive care in which realistic and achievable goals were established. Individualized patient education enhanced their independence and empowered them towards a new and progressive lifestyle.

Conclusion.  A new emphasis is needed in rehabilitation nursing, involving assessment of existential well-being of patients by means of skilful interpersonal relationship based on individualized caring and emotional support and recognition of each patient’s own hierarchy of needs.