Patients' rights such as the need for dignity and respect are essential in the provision of quality care. This exploratory clinical study explored patient dignity within the acute hospital environment through observation of staff–patient interactions and interviews with patients. Dignity can be influenced through two major mediums—maintenance of the physical environment and the communication style of the nurse. The findings identified deviations to ideal practice in the maintenance of the physical environment and communication styles of the nursing staff. Maintenance of dignity and privacy were not identified by patients during the interviews as being under threat despite deviations to ideal practice being observed. Patients possibly accept that ‘ideal practice’ is not always provided to them because nurses are ‘busy’, or other factors take precedence in this environment. It is possible that a prevailing culture influences patients' perceptions of whether dignity is maintained.