A joint university research project will examine the success of encouraging patients to have more of a say in their care. Amie Larter reports.
Patient participation in care (PPC) is not a new concept, however, little research has been done in Australia into how hospitals would deliver changes, and whether patients are ready and willing to participate.
The World Health Organisation as well as the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare have been long-time promoters, and recent statistics suggest that this could decrease the rate that patients pick up a secondary illness or injury in hospital.
An Australian Research Discovery grant has recently been awarded to Griffith University's National Centre for Research Excellence in Nursing (NCREN) and Deakin University to explore patient and nurse responses to PPC and their willingness to participate in it.
"The first phase is exploratory, and we will find out from nurses and patients what they think of active participation in their care," said Professor Wendy Chaboyer, director of Griffith's NCREN, who will lead the three-year study.
"We want to find out what nurses think, as we would like to understand some of the barriers and drivers for this actual participation because it means a power sharing." Chaboyer said patients will now be acting as partners in their care.
The second phase, led by Griffith health economist Dr Jenny Whitty, will be an experiment where scenarios will be presented to nurses and patients to explore preference in care.
Results from this will be used in the third phase to develop recommendations on how hospitals might be able to have patients participate more actively.
The Australian Nursing Federation federal secretary, Lee Thomas, said that nurses try to promote a positive therapeutic relationship using effective communication and advocating for patients. This demonstrates their support for patients making decisions about their own healthcare management.
"Patients need to believe that they can ask questions and feel confident they understand the answers they are given. By providing empowerment, nurses encourage people to choose and negotiate about their care and take the lead in decision making."
Thomas suggested that in order for nurses to build upon the PPC approach, they would need time to educate patients - something that was not always available within an acute setting where patients have relatively short stays.
"They need the staffing and resources to do this. Shared decision making and working in partnership with people is important in ensuring a fairer service.
"A PPC approach has great potential and it is our hope that the research will demonstrate whether it will improve patient care and the resources required to achieve this," Thomas said.
International research suggests that nurses' responses to the PPC approach have been varied.
"Some nurses feel threatened and challenged if patients speak up," Chaboyer said.
"On the positive, from these small studies, some nurses embrace patients participation; they value it and see its importance, thus are dedicated to supporting patient participation.
"However, nurses report they still need to maintain some control," Chaboyer said.Do you have an idea for a story?
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