Patients’ experiences of day surgery: a Parsonian analysis


A. Mottram: e-mail:


mottram a. (2010) Patients’ experiences of day surgery: a Parsonian analysis. Journal of Advanced Nursing67(1), 140–148.


Aim.  The aim of the study was to explore patients’ experiences of day surgery using a sociological framework of analysis.

Background.  Although day surgery has increased globally in the last 20 years, little applied sociological research has been undertaken in this area.

Method.  The Glaserian methodology of Grounded Theory was used. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 145 patients and 100 carers on three occasions from 2004 to 2006. Analysis of the data involved line-by-line analysis, compilation of key words and phrases (codes) and constant comparison of the codes until core categories were identified.

Findings.  A major category to emerge from the data was the ambiguity presented to patients in relation to the sick role. Of concern to patients was society’s attitudes, which seem to deny to day surgery patients full entitlement to the privileges associated with the sick role. Day surgery patients wanted to feel comfortable in a role that was socially acceptable – the sick role. However, many patients actively resisted this role, and this could have implications for recovery. A large number of patients wished for a limited ascription of the sick role, whilst a minority actively sought to acquire this role.

Conclusion.  The importance of nurses in providing supportive, psychological care, and ensuring patient and carer understanding of what day surgery entails cannot be overstated. Day surgery personnel should teach that day surgery is not minor surgery and that recovery times may be protracted, during which patients will need support.