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Keywords:

  • dignity;
  • humiliation;
  • insult;
  • rehabilitation;
  • self-respect

Aims and objectives

To explore how healthcare personnel comprehend the term dignity and what they do to attend to, preserve and promote the dignity of patients in the rehabilitation context.

Background

Literature reveals that knowledge exists concerning the nature of dignity. Literature is scant on how health personnel think the reasons may be when patients do not maintain their dignity or how caregivers might improve and strengthen their concern in preserving and promoting the patients' dignity in a rehabilitation context.

Design

The study was explorative and descriptive, with content analysis of gathered empirical data.

Methods

Qualitative focus group interviews with representatives from the staff at three different rehabilitation centres were carried out. Professionals within different occupations were represented at the meeting: nurses, ergonomists, physiotherapists, psychologists, medical doctors, social workers, auxiliary nurses and speech therapists.

Results

Dignity is promoted when the patient himself becomes an active agent, when the patient's feelings and thoughts are respected, when the family of the patient is included and listened to, when the patient is free to make critical comment, when members of staff are able to cope with the patient's disabilities and when the aesthetic environment is attended to and enhanced. Dignity is not promoted when health personnel override or dominate patients, when health personnel focus merely on the patient's diagnosis and not the sick person and when health personnel and/or relatives try to impose their own values.

Conclusion

The staff working in institutions to rehabilitate patients with head injuries and multiple sclerosis must be aware and sensitive to the importance of maintaining and supporting the patient's dignity and self-respect.

Relevance for clinical practice

The results from this project confirm the importance of acknowledging the patient's self-worth as a human being, unconditionally. This might be essential in promoting and preserving the patients' dignity.