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A qualitative meta-synthesis of patients' experiences of intra- and inter-hospital transitions


Correspondence to L. Uhrenfeldt: e-mail:



To aggregate, interpret and synthesize findings from qualitative studies of patients' experiences on being transferred/in transition from one hospital to another or from one ward to another.


Studies about patients' experiences of transfer focused on concepts such as transfer stress, transfer anxiety, and translocation syndrome; however, a meta-synthesis on experiences of transition across different patient populations was lacking.


The meta-synthesis approach was based on the guidelines by Sandelowski and Barroso.

Data source

Six electronic databases were searched for articles published between the years 1999-2011, based on the target phenomenon: patients' experiences of transition after transfer between hospitals or units. Reference lists of included articles were screened for eligible papers.

Review methods

Data were analysed into meta-summary and meta-synthesis. The qualitative content analysis process started with a search for common themes, concepts, and metaphors.


Fourteen qualitative studies were included. Three main categories were identified: transfer as unpredictable, scary and stressful; transfer as recovery and relief; and transfer as sliding into insignificance. The meta-synthesis showed patients' experiences of transitions as critical events where nurses need to focus on patient outcome of transfer as safe, predictable, and individual.


It was difficult for patients to leave their experiences behind when feeling unimportant. Evidence existed for clinical nurses to continue the development of care quality and safety for patients in transfer/transition. Intervention studies and policy development to improve transfers and transitions for patients are recommended.