• acute care;
  • compromises;
  • narrative;
  • patients;
  • satisfaction;
  • vulnerability

Aim.  To illuminate the experience of being a patient and cared for in an acute care ward.

Background.  Patients may be the best source of information for assessing the quality of care in acute care wards. Studies often show that patients’ satisfaction with their hospital stay is interpreted by managers and care providers as a measure for quality of care.

Design.  Ten patients were interviewed as part of a comprehensive investigation by four researchers into the narratives of five enrolled nurses (study No. 1 – published in Nursing Ethics 2004), five Registered Nurses (study No. 2 published in Nursing Ethics 2005) and 10 patients (study No. 3) about their experiences from an acute care ward at one university hospital in Sweden.

Method.  A phenomenological hermeneutical method (inspired by the French philosopher Paul Ricoeur) was conducted in all three studies.

Findings.  The patients are very satisfied with their treatment and care. They also tell about factors that they do not consider as optimal, but which they explain as compromises, which must be accepted as a necessary part of their stay in the ward. This study demonstrates a close connection between patient satisfaction and vulnerability.

Conclusions.  It is important for all health care providers not to be complacent and satisfied when patients express their satisfaction with their treatment and care. This can result in losing the focus on the patients’ vulnerability and existential thoughts and reflections which are difficult for them, and which need to be addressed.

Relevance to clinical practice.  The findings can be seen as a challenge for the health care providers as well as the organization to provide quality of care to patients in acute care ward. When listening to the patients’ voice it makes it easier to be aware of the content of their vulnerability.