Struggling for dignity and respect: Patients' beliefs of their rights while hospitalized in an acute care facility

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Nancy S. Hogan - Committee Chair


A qualitative research design using a focus group research technique was used to identify patients' perceptions of their rights while hospitalized. Eighteen volunteers were recruited through purposeful and network sampling techniques. Seven mini-focus groups were conducted in Southwest Florida, two groups of men (n = 4) and five groups of women (n = 14). The mini-focus groups ranged from two to four members. All interviews were tape recorded and transcribed verbatim Transcripts were analyzed within groups and across groups to identify similarities, contrasts, and patterns using the constant comparative method. Six categories of patients' rights emerged from the data: I have a right to be treated with dignity and respect; I have a right to make informed choices about my care and health; I have a right to participate in determining the direction of my own care; I have a right to competent care; I have a right to have my pain managed effectively, and I have a right and responsibility to express my concerns and to have those concerns acted upon. The rights patients value are interrelated and contextual in nature. Positive and negative properties of each category were identified as well as examples of situations in which specific rights were supported or ignored. This study suggests that many nurses at the bedside are not using their professional code of ethics to guide practice. The findings of this study substantiate the value of the Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements (American Nurses' Association, 2001) as a framework for nursing practice that supports patients' rights. The findings have implications for nursing practice, nursing education, and hospital administration. The study provides a foundation for future research related to patients' rights.


Health Sciences, Nursing; Health Sciences, Health Care Management

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