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Women patients’ conceptions of integrity within health care: a phenomenographic study


I. Widäng: e-mail:


Title. Women patients’ conceptions of integrity within health care: a phenomenographic study

Aim.  The aim of this study was to describe how women patients conceive integrity within health care.

Background.  Integrity is part of being a human and means the self as an integrated whole and includes privacy, autonomy and the values espoused by the individual. Integrity refers also to a person’s identity, ‘the self’. When a person becomes ill and needs help, there are many situations that can threaten their integrity.

Method.  A phenomenographic approach was chosen to focus on conceptions. The participants were 15 strategically chosen women patients who were interviewed after discharge from a hospital in Sweden. The data were collected in 2003–2004.

Findings.  Three description categories were identified: ‘maintaining the self’, which represented the patient’s relationship to herself; ‘dignity’, which characterized the professional caregivers’ relationship to the patient; and ‘confidence’, which was associated with the relationship between patient and professional caregivers. Integrity implied having courage to set boundaries and have control of the private sphere, but also if necessary changing the boundaries of integrity.

Conclusion.  It is essential that professional caregivers are knowledgeable about all aspects of integrity and the importance of interactions with patients being characterized by dignity and confidentiality. Professional caregivers should take part in reflective discussions to identify situations in health care with an inherent risk of threatening or violating patients’ integrity, and how best to preserve it. Integrity is an abstract and complex concept that is not well-defined, and further research is needed to clarify its connection with other concepts.

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