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An ambiguous relationship – a qualitative meta-synthesis of hospitalized somatic patients’ experience of interaction with fellow patients


Lene Søndergård Larsen, Viborg and Department of Nursing Science, Centre of Nursing Science, Aarhus University, Heibergs Allé 2, 4. Floor, 8800 Viborg, Aarhus, Denmark.
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Aim:  The aim of this study was to provide a clear view of the existing knowledge regarding patients’ significance to fellow patients during hospitalization.

Method:  Sandelowski and Barroso’s approach to qualitative meta-synthesis was selected and systematically used for collecting and assessing findings from qualitative studies. Data consisted of seven qualitative studies published as one book, four scientific articles and two doctoral theses from Scotland, UK, Norway and Denmark. The analysis and synthesis were conducted with inspiration from both Sandelowski and Barroso and Ian Dey’s approach to qualitative data analysis.

Results:  The qualitative meta-synthesis resulted in the heading An Ambiguous Relationship under which three core categories illustrate the hospitalized patients’ different interaction roles. The core categories were as follows: (i) the fellow patient experienced as an enforced companion, (ii) the fellow patient experienced as an expert on illness and hospital life and (iii) the fellow patient experienced as a care provider. Each core category was elaborated through several subcategories. Social interaction among hospitalized patients embedded elements of both enforced and volunteered participation. Typically, the social interaction was experienced as giving and was referred to in positive terms but recurrently, the opposite was experienced too. The ambiguity of the relationship clearly emerged in all of the synthesized themes presented in this article.

Implications for practice:  Hospitalized patients experienced interaction with fellow patients to be of great significance. We suggest that knowledge of patients’ interaction is to be included in the nursing education and that nurses reflect on how this knowledge may be implemented as a part of caring in nursing.