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A palliative environment: Caring for seriously ill hospitalized patients

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  • Connie Timmermann
  • ,
  • Lisbeth Uhrenfeldt
  • ,
  • Mette Terp Høybye
  • Regner Birkelund, University of Southern Denmark

OBJECTIVE: To explore how patients experience being in the hospital environment and the meaning they assign to the environment during serious illness.

METHOD: A qualitative study design was applied, and the data analysis was inspired by Ricoeur's phenomenological-hermeneutic theory of interpretation. Data were collected through multiple qualitative interviews combined with observations at a teaching hospital in Denmark from May to September 2011. A total of 12 patients participated.

RESULTS: The findings showed that the hospital environment has a strong impact on patients' emotions and well-being. They reported that aesthetic decorations and small cozy spots for conversation or relaxation created a sense of homeliness that reinforced a positive mood and personal strength. Furthermore, being surrounded by some of their personal items or undertaking familiar tasks, patients were able to maintain a better sense of self. Maintaining at least some kind of familiar daily rhythm was important for their sense of well-being and positive emotions.

SIGNIFICANCE OF RESULTS: The results stress the importance of an aesthetically pleasing and homelike hospital environment as part of palliative care, since the aesthetic practice and a sense of homeliness strengthened patients' experiences of well-being, relief, and positive emotions while in a vulnerable situation. Such knowledge could encourage the development of new policies regarding appropriate care settings, which in turn could result in overall improved care during serious illness.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPalliative & Supportive Care
Pages (from-to)201-9
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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