Feeling an outsider left in uncertainty

Hanneke van der Meide, C.J.W. Leget, Gert Olthuis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


This paper starts from a care ethical perspective on care and reports on a phenomenological study into older patients' experiences of hospitalisation. Although hospital care for older patients is at the centre of attention, questions what is at stake and what defines quality of care are rarely discussed with a view to the perspective of older patients themselves. The qualitative observational method of shadowing was used. Ten patients of 75 years old or older were shadowed from admission until discharge. The reflective lifeworld approach, based on phenomenological philosophy, was used to analyse the collected data. For the older patients included in the study, the essential meaning of hospitalisation can be described as feeling an outsider left in uncertainty. The word 'left' reveals how hospitalisation is experienced as a solitary struggle with various uncertainties that are related both to the hospital environment and to the patient's personal situation. The essential meaning is composed of the following three constituents: (i) staying in an inhospitable place, (ii) feeling constrained and (iii) experiencing disruption. The busy walking back and forth of care professionals and the functional character of involvement, restrain older patients from participating and make them feel abandoned. Feeling constrained reveals the feelings brought on by the ageing body which are emphasised by hospitalisation but often neglected by hospital staff. The failure of healthcare professionals to recognise and respond to who older patients are aside from their illness exacerbate the experience of disruptions. To improve care, hospital staff must be more sensitive to older patients' uncertainties. Also, hospital staff should provide older patients with understandable information and explanation which besides offering patients the possibility to feel involved, meets their need for recognition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)528-536
JournalScandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


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