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Capacity for care: meta-ethnography of acute care nurses’ experiences of the nurse-patient relationship

Record type: Article

Aims: To synthesize evidence and knowledge from published research about nurses' experiences of nurse-patient relationships with adult patients in general, acute inpatient hospital settings.

Background: While primary research on nurses' experiences has been reported, it has not been previously synthesized. Design: Meta-ethnography. Data sources: Published literature from Australia, Europe, and North America, written in English between January 1999–October 2009 was identified from databases: CINAHL, Medline, British Nursing Index and PsycINFO.

Review methods: Qualitative studies describing nurses' experiences of the nurse-patient relationship in acute hospital settings were reviewed and synthesized using the meta-ethnographic method.

Results: Sixteen primary studies (18 papers) were appraised as high quality and met the inclusion criteria. The findings show that while nurses aspire to develop therapeutic relationships with patients, the organizational setting at a unit level is strongly associated with nurses' capacity to build and sustain these relationships. The organizational conditions of critical care settings appear best suited to forming therapeutic relationships, while nurses working on general wards are more likely to report moral distress resulting from delivering unsatisfactory care. General ward nurses can then withdraw from attempting to emotionally engage with patients.

Conclusion: The findings of this meta-ethnography draw together the evidence from several qualitative studies and articulate how the organizational setting at a unit level can strongly influence nurses' capacity to build and sustain therapeutic relationships with patients. Service improvements need to focus on how to optimize the organizational conditions that support nurses in their relational work with patients.

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Bridges, Jackie, Nicholson, Caroline, Maben, Jill, Pope, Catherine, Flately, Mary, Wilkinson, Charlotte, Meyer, Julienne and Tziggili, Maria (2013) Capacity for care: meta-ethnography of acute care nurses’ experiences of the nurse-patient relationship Journal of Advanced Nursing, 69, (4), pp. 760-772. (doi:10.1111/jan.12050). (PMID:23163719).

More information

e-pub ahead of print date: 19 November 2012
Published date: April 2013
Keywords: caring, experiences, hospitals, literature, meta-ethnography, nurses, professional-patient relations, qualitative research, systematic review
Organisations: Faculty of Health Sciences


Local EPrints ID: 345509
ISSN: 0309-2402
PURE UUID: 8ae966ec-738a-4863-b62f-44e27f8913af
ORCID for Jackie Bridges: ORCID iD
ORCID for Catherine Pope: ORCID iD

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Date deposited: 26 Nov 2012 11:50
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 05:09

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Author: Jackie Bridges ORCID iD
Author: Caroline Nicholson
Author: Jill Maben
Author: Catherine Pope ORCID iD
Author: Mary Flately
Author: Charlotte Wilkinson
Author: Julienne Meyer
Author: Maria Tziggili

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