Does Privacy Matter? Former Patients Discuss Their Perceptions of Privacy in Shared Hospital Rooms
Malcolm, Helen A.
Nursing Ethics 2005 March; 12(2): 156-166
As a relative concept, privacy is difficult to define in universal terms. In the New Zealand setting recent legislation aims to protect patients' privacy but anecdotal evidence suggests that these policies are not well understood by some providers and recipients of health care. This qualitative study set out to identify some of the issues by exploring former patients' perceptions of privacy in shared hospital rooms. The findings suggest a conditional acceptance of a loss of privacy in an environment dictated by architectural structure and by fiscal and time constraints. Participants indicated an awareness that personal information could be overheard and that their preference for a choice of setting for serious discussions was desirable. Some enjoyed the support offered in shared rooms, while, for others, overhearing another person's health issues caused unnecessary distress. The participants suggested that knowing they could be overheard constrained information disclosure. This withholding of information has implications for health professionals' ability to diagnose and treat patients appropriately.
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