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Nursing contribution to the rehabilitation of older patients: patient and family perspectives


E.F. Tyrrell:


tyrrell e.f., levack w.m., ritchie l.h. & keeling s.m. (2012) Nursing contribution to the rehabilitation of older patients: patient and family perspectives. Journal of Advanced Nursing68(11), 2466–2476.


Aims.  This article reports a study of the perspective of older patients and their family members on the role of nurses in inpatient rehabilitation.

Background.  Rehabilitation services are used increasingly by older patients as life expectancy increases. The role of rehabilitation nurses in the multidisciplinary team has, however, yet to be clearly articulated. Previous research has focussed on the views of health professionals about nursing involvement in rehabilitation, but none has sought family members’ perspectives. With the expectation of patient-centred care, it is important to consider what older patients and their families expect and require from nurses.

Design.  Grounded theory was used to collect and analyse data from interviews in an inpatient rehabilitation unit in New Zealand with seven patients, aged 72–89 years, and six family members, during 2009–2010.

Findings.  A substantive theory was developed which recognizes that the older patient values the relationship they build with nurses more than any specific role nurses perform. Participants acknowledged that rehabilitation nurses’ roles included ‘looking after’, ‘stepping in’ and ‘coaching independence’ but ‘best fit’ nurses were identified by patients based on their ‘nature’, ‘being available’ and ‘being attuned’ to the patient’s individual needs. If a ‘connection’ was formed, then this ‘best fit relationship’ maximized the older person’s motivation to participate in his or her rehabilitation therapy.

Conclusion.  Patients and family members appreciate ‘best fit relationships’ where nurses seek to enter into the older person’s world of disability to form a partnership which enhances their motivation to achieve independence.