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Maintaining patients’ dignity during clinical care: a qualitative interview study


  • Yea-Pyng Lin,

    1. Yea-Pyng Lin MS RN Supervisor Department of Nursing, Mennonite Christian Hospital, Hualien, Taiwan, and PhD Student, Graduate Institute of Clinical Medical Sciences, Chang Gung University, Taoyuan, Taiwan
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  • Yun-Fang Tsai

    1. Yun-Fang Tsai PhD RN Professor School of Nursing, Chang Gung University, Taoyuan, Taiwan, and Consultant, Department of Nursing, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Keelung, Taiwan
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Y.-F. Tsai:


lin y.-p. & tsai y.-f. (2011) Maintaining patients’ dignity during clinical care: a qualitative interview study. Journal of Advanced Nursing67(2), 340–348.


Aim.  This article is a report of a study undertaken to understand how nurses maintain patients’ dignity in clinical practice.

Background.  Dignity is a core concept in nursing care and maintaining patients’ dignity is critical to their recovery. In Western countries, measures to maintain dignity in patients’ care include maintaining privacy of the body, providing spatial privacy, giving sufficient time, treating patients as a whole person and allowing patients to have autonomy. However, this is an under-studied topic in Asian countries.

Methods.  For this qualitative descriptive study, data were collected in Taiwan in 2009 using in-depth interviews with a purposive sample of 30 nurses from a teaching hospital in eastern Taiwan. The audiotaped interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using content analysis.

Findings.  Nurses’ measures to maintain dignity in patient care were captured in five themes: respect, protecting privacy, emotional support, treating all patients alike and maintaining body image. Participants did not mention beneficence, a crucial element achieved through the professional care of nurses that can enhance the recovery of patients.

Conclusion.  In-service education to help nurses enhance dignity in patient care should emphasize emotional support, maintaining body image and treating all patients alike. Our model for maintaining dignity in patient care could be used to develop a clinical care protocol for nurses to use in clinical practice.