Patient’s dignity in intensive care unit: A critical ethnography

Nursing Ethics 26 (3):738-752 (2019)
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Abstract

Background:Maintaining patient’s dignity in intensive care units is difficult because of the unique conditions of both critically-ill patients and intensive care units.Objectives:The aim of this study was to uncover the cultural factors that impeded maintaining patients’ dignity in the cardiac surgery intensive care unit.Research Design:The study was conducted using a critical ethnographic method proposed by Carspecken.Participants and research context:Participants included all physicians, nurses and staffs working in the study setting. Data collection methods included participant observations, formal and informal interviews, and documents assessment. In total, 200 hours of observation and 30 interviews were performed. Data were analyzed to uncover tacit cultural knowledge and to help healthcare providers to reconstruct the culture of their workplace.Ethical Consideration:Ethical approval for the study from Ethics committee of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences was obtained.Findings:The findings of the study fell into the following main themes: “Presence: the guarantee for giving enough attention to patients’ self-esteem”, “Instrumental and objectified attitudes”, “Adherence to the human equality principle: value-action gap”, “Paternalistic conduct”, “Improper language”, and “Non-interactive communication”. The final assertion was “Reductionism as a major barrier to the maintaining of patient’s dignity”.Discussion:The prevailing atmosphere in subculture of the CSICU was reductionism and paternalism. This key finding is part of the biomedical discourse. As a matter of fact, it is in contrast with dignified care because the latter necessitate holistic attitudes and approaches.Conclusion:Changing an ICU culture is not easy; but through increasing awareness and critical self-reflections, the nurses, physicians and other healthcare providers, may be able to reaffirm dignified care and cure in their therapeutic relationships.

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